Sunderland Head Coach Gus Poyet has thrown a spanner into the works today, making three changes to the side that went down 0-2 at Stoke last weekend. Andrea Dossena replaces Ondrej Celustka, meaning Phil Bardsley will move to right-back, offering the side greater balance in defence.
It is the other two changes, however, that have surprised plenty. Jack Colback has been dropped to the bench, replaced by the hugely inconsistent presence of Craig Gardner. Adam Johnson, too, finds himself relegated to a substitute's role, with Fabio Borini his replacement. It remains to be seen when Poyet will favour two out-and-out strikers, though the likelihood is that Borini and Emanuele Giaccherini will be asked to push on behind lone striker Steven Fletcher.
Sunderland: (4-3-3): Vito Mannone, Phil Bardsley, Andrea Dossena, John O'Shea, Wes Brown; Ki Sung-Yeung, Craig Gardner, Seb Larsson; Emanuele Giaccherini, Fabio Borini, Steven Fletcher
Substitutes: Jordan Pickford, Valentin Roberge, Ondrej Celustka, Lee Cattermole, Jack Colback, Adam Johnson, Jozy Altidore
Meanwhile Paul Lambert has reintroduced Gabriel Agbonhalor, Andreas Wiemann and Fabian Delph to his starting lineup, following the trio's impressive performances as substitutes in last Monday's comeback draw against West Brom. Antonio Luna, too, starts, having overcame a thigh injury.
Aston Villa (4-2-3-1): Brad Guzan, Leandro Bacuna, Ron Vlaar, Ciaran Clark, Antonio Luna, Fabian Delph, Ashley Westwood, Karim El Ahmadi, Gabriel Agbonhlahor, Christian Benteke, Andreas Wiemann
Substitutes: Jed Steer, Nathan Baker, Matt Lowton, Marc Albrighton, Yacouba Sylla, Aleksandar Tonev, Libor Kozak