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MATCH PREVIEW: Sunderland V Aston Villa

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Tomorrow we welcome in the New Year by entertaining Remi Garde's Aston Villa - without a doubt it is the most important match of the season thus far.

Here we are, at the halfway stage of the season, and things are looking quite ominous to say the least.

We've emerged from the festive fixture run from hell facing the first real make-or-break game of the season. Like us, Villa are struggling, which should see both sides play out a fairly competitive tie. For Sam Allardyce taking three points from the game is our only option on Saturday.

We showed heart against Liverpool but ultimately we lacked quality, both defensively and in attack. This should be a much more even game and if we take our chances there's no reason why we can't take all three points.

Match Appointments

Referee: Craig Pawson

Assistants: J Brooks & D Bryan

Fourth Official: A Madley

Team News

Sunderland

Even If Lamine Kone completes his signing before the game he will not be eligible to play. The same applies to Jordan Pickford, who was recently recalled after a highly impressive loan spell with Preston North End.

Sebastián Coates, who limped off the pitch in the second half against Liverpool, will be closely monitored by Sam Allardyce and is currently touch and go with regards to whether or not he'll be available for selection. Should the Villa clash come too soon for the Uruguay international it will hand Sam Allardyce yet another defensive selection headache, with captain John O'Shea and Younes Kaboul already ruled out.

Jack Rodwell is out due to the hamstring injury he picked up on Wednesday - this could either see Jordi Gomez return to the line up. Steven Fletcher is a slight doubt.

Aston Villa

Jordan Ayew - who arguably has been Villa's best performer so far this season - misses the game through suspension. Gabriel Agbonlahor and Carlos Sanchez are both doubts but could feature.

Form

Sunderland

Wednesday 30th December - Sunderland 0-1 Liverpool

Saturday 26th December - Man City 4-1 Sunderland

Saturday 19th December - Chelsea 3-1 Sunderland

Saturday 12th December - Sunderland 0-1 Watford

Saturday 5th December - Arsenal 3-1 Sunderland

Saturday 28th November - Sunderland 2-0 Stoke

Aston Villa

Monday 29th December - Norwich 2-0 Aston Villa

Saturday 26th December - Aston Villa 1-1 West Ham

Saturday 19th December - Newcastle 1-1 Aston Villa

Sunday 13th December - Aston Villa 0-2 Arsenal

Saturday 5th December - Southampton 1-1 Aston Villa

Saturday 28th November - Aston Villa 2-3 Watford

What The Managers Say

Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce:

What we have to do is play our best against Aston Villa and win.

That's the real nerve-tester - and we must keep our nerve.

Even though they have had a couple more days to get ready, we have to make sure we are ready physically and mentally to go out there and get the three points.

We have to keep going, we have to keep believing.

We have to keep our nerve and make sure we are ready for our big clash on Saturday.

Aston Villa manager Remi Garde:

It is a very important game but this is not the last chance we will have to be fair.

There are still a lot of points to be done. Let's see what happens.

We will go there to win.

I want my team to have the best spirit they can have - everyone in this club, particularly me and the players - have to show the best we can do.

I am sure the players will be very, very committed.

Last 10 League Meetings

August 29th 2015 - Aston Villa 2-2 Sunderland

March 14th 2015 - Sunderland 0-4 Aston Villa

December 28th 2014 - Aston Villa 0-0 Sunderland

January 1st 2014 - Sunderland 0-1 Aston Villa

November 30th 2013 - Aston Villa 0-0 Sunderland

April 29th 2013 - Aston Villa 6-1 Sunderland

November 3rd 2012 - Sunderland 0-1 Aston Villa

April 21st 2012 - Aston Villa 0-0 Sunderland

October 29th 2011 - Sunderland 2-2 Aston Villa

January 5th 2011 - Aston Villa 0-1 Sunderland

Last Meeting

Last Corresponding Fixture

March 14th 2015:

Sunderland 0 - Aston Villa 4

Benteke 16', 44' Agbonlahor 18', 37'

Stats 'N' Facts

Head to Head
  • Aston Villa are unbeaten in their last nine games against Sunderland (W4, D5), a run stretching back to January 2011.
  • The Black Cats have failed to score in four of their last five games against Villa and six of their last eight.
Sunderland
  • The Black Cats have scored nine Premier League home goals this season - only Aston Villa, with six, have a lower total.
  • Defeat would mean Sunderland have lost six successive Premier League games for the first time since a similar sequence between August and October 2013.
  • Sunderland have made eight first-half substitutions in this season's Premier League - three more than any other side.
  • Sunderland's tally of 38 goals conceded is the worst record in the top flight currently.
Aston Villa
  • Villa have scored 15 Premier League goals this season - the lowest total in the top flight.
  • Their shot conversion rate is 9.8% - the poorest in this season's Premier League.
  • Villa have taken eight points from their opening 19 games - only two Premier League sides have claimed fewer points (Sunderland had six in 2005-06 and Derby had seven in 2007-08).
  • They are winless in 18 league games (D5, L13) - including eight under Remi Garde (D4, L4).
  • Gabriel Agbonlahor has scored five goals in his last five Premier League appearances against Sunderland

Readers Table

In each match preview article on the site we set a poll in which we ask you to predict the outcome of the fixture.

Just for a bit of fun I've adjusted the Premier League table according to the poll results. At the midway stage of the season you've voted us to be sitting pretty in 10th place - a healthy sixteen points better off than we actually are.