Saturday 2nd January – 15:00 – Stadium of Light
The bottom two clubs in the Premier League will be hoping a new year will signal a change in form, as Sunderland host Aston Villa – with just four league wins between them all season. The Black Cats are seven points from safety and have lost their last five games, most recently a 1-0 defeat to Liverpool. Villa meanwhile haven’t won since the opening day against Bournemouth, meaning it’s 18 games without victory for the Midlands side who also ended 2015 with defeat as they lost 2-0 to Norwich City. This means they enter the new year 11 points adrift at the bottom of the league. Since the two teams met at the end of August, they have both changed managers, with the hosts replacing Dick Advocaat with Sam Allardyce and the visitors bringing in Remi Garde in place of Tim Sherwood. But as their league positions suggest, neither boss is fulfilling their aim of keeping their respective clubs in the division – a task that continues to look increasingly harder at both the Stadium of Light and Villa Park.
- The Black Cats may lack defensive options, with Younes Kaboul (hamstring) and Adam Matthews (ankle) out and John O’Shea (calf) and Sebastian Coates (knock) both doubts.
- Wes Brown will also be assessed after making his comeback from injury in midweek, while midfielders Jack Rodwell (hamstring) and Sebastian Larsson (knee) are sidelined.
- Sam Allardyce is set to consider a recall for Steven Fletcher, who missed out in midweek as a precaution, with Jermain Defoe possibly dropping back to the bench.
- Villains duo Jordan Ayew and Ashley Westwood serve one-game bans after accumulating five yellow cards.
- Midfielder Carlos Sanchez (hamstring) and Jordan Amavi (knee) are out, whilst Gabby Agbonlahor is struggling with a back problem.
- Jores Okore is set to be available having missed out against Norwich due to a knee injury. He could replace Ciaran Clark at the heart of the defence.
The Key Battle: Wes Brown vs Rudy Gestede
With Younes Kaboul and John O’Shea both injured and Sebastian Coates a doubt, it is likely that Wes Brown will be needed to play in the centre of defence for the second time in the space of just over three days – not something many 36 year olds can easily do.
The former Manchester United defender had only just recovered from injury himself when he stepped in against Liverpool to make only his second appearance of the season. If the other three aforementioned centre-backs are indeed ruled out, Brown will also need to use his experience if teenager Tom Beadling (who was included on the bench for the first time against the Reds) is drafted in alongside him.
With Andre Ayew suspended, Rudy Gestede is likely start upfront by himself this afternoon, and standing at 6ft 4in, he should be the perfect target man.
But since joining from Blackburn Rovers in the summer, he has scored just three league goals, one of which was the winning goal against Bournemouth on the opening day – Villa’s only league victory of the season.
Sunderland wins = 54 / Aston Villa wins = 81 / Draws = 46
*According to http://www.11v11.com
Last Meeting: Aston Villa 2-2 Sunderland (29th August 2015)
Sunderland found themselves still searching for their first win of the Premier League season after earning a point through Jeremain Lens’ second-half strike against Aston Villa. The Black Cats led when Yann M’Vila curled a superb 20-yard free-kick into the top corner. Villa hit back almost instantly when Lee Cattermole needlessly barged over Scott Sinclair, who calmly converted a low penalty before tapping in a second before half-time. But Lens earned a draw for his side when he steered in from close range. [BBC]
Sam Allardyce: “We must hold our nerve because this is going to be one nervy affair on Saturday. The game is so big that we all have to hold our nerve and give ourselves the encouragement that if we can perform at the very best level that we hit against Liverpool, but are a touch better in the final third, we will beat Aston Villa on the day.”
Remi Garde: “I am still very frustrated not to have won a game but I am still looking at it with an optimist’s view. The victory will come soon and that will change the mood of the changing room and the players too.”
The Referee – Craig Pawson
- Last Premier League game: Leicester City 0-0 Manchester City (29th December 2015) – 4 yellow cards, 0 red cards
- Last Sunderland game: Sunderland 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur (13th September 2015) – 3 yellow cards, 0 red cards
- Last Aston Villa game: Aston Villa 0-0 Manchester City (8th November 2015) – 2 yellow cards, 0 red cards
Stat of the Match
Sunderland have scored nine Premier League home goals this season – only Aston Villa, with six, have a lower total.
Where Can I Watch It?
The game is not being shown live on UK TV, but the highlights will be on BBC One’s Match of the Day on Saturday evening at 10:30pm
My Prediction: Sunderland 1-1 Aston Villa
I don’t think either side will end their winless streak, as there’s not enough quality in either squad, especially with key players missing. On paper, Sunderland and Villa shouldn’t be in as much trouble as they are, as there is obvious quality in both teams, so I’m going for a 1-1 draw with goals from Adam Johnson and Scott Sinclair. It’s a relegation six pointer to the start year so could get feisty.