Aston Villa v Sunderland 2015

It seems too early to describe Saturday’s home game against Sunderland as a ‘must-win’ fixture, but after a disappointing defeat away at Palace, it’s time we picked up some points at home.

Like Villa, Sunderland were given a fright by a League Two side in a mid-week cup game, but picked up a morale-boosting point against Swansea last weekend.

Villa certainly have the form advantage due to recent clashes against the Black Cats. Can Sherwood start building a fortress at Villa Park?

Aston Villa have won only four of the last 18  League matches at Villa Park

Sherwood on Sunderland

“It’s an important game, but I’m not sure it’s a landmark.

“The team got 10 points from [their opening] four games last season and ended up struggling. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish – and how you perform in the middle would help.

“They’re under no more pressure than we are, Arsenal, Chelsea too, everyone has their own pressure.

“The pressure is to win football matches at whatever level.

“We want to take the game to Sunderland – they sit deep and look to bring us on and we’ll certainly be coming on to them.”

Sherwood on Villa sickness

“There is a little bit of an illness going round training. There are a few players who have not been able to make training today. We’ll assess them.

“There are a couple who are not well but I’d rather that now than tomorrow. I don’t want to tell you who.

“The docs are doing overtime. We’re just hoping the bug finds its way around the North East!”

Advocaat on spending

“We had a big past here and I know a little bit about the salary of players – average players, lower than average players – and that’s crazy.

“People who bought those kind of players for those transfer fees and gave them those salaries didn’t care about the club.

“And then I can understand our owner when he thinks, “I spent a fortune” and now where are they playing, or not playing? I can totally understand him.

“Supporters have to understand that before you can have a new start, you have to get rid.”

Memory Match

28th December 2014 Aston Villa 0 Sunderland 0

A red card for Delph was the only notable incident in this tedious goalless draw, it was a far cry from that rememorable 6-1 scoreline.

Villa – Last five matches at home: W 2, D 1, L 2

Sunderland – Last five matches away: W 1, D 2, L 2

Villa have lost just one of the last five matches against Sunderland at home

One to Watch

Jermaine Defoe – The ex-Tottenham striker has always been a goal threat. This season he’s somehow managed to score twice already, despite Sunderland’s woes.

 

Facts to Sweep Under the Carpet

As we saw last weekend, our record against Pardew continues to be poor. Against Sunderland however, we have the edge.

Even if historical stats are on Villa’s side, though, there always seems to be some sort of distraction. This week, it comes in the form of a mysterious bug that will rule out a couple of players, according to Sherwood.

In recent years we’ve got the better of Sunderland but Advocaat will be seeing this as an important game as question marks are raised regarding his future.

A point against Swansea shows there are signs of life at the Stadium of Light and Villa’s poor home form (four wins out of the last 18 league games!) will give Sunderland some hope.

We tend to enjoy visits to Sunderland but at home it’s not so straightforward. The 6-1 win in Lambert’s first season was the only victory against the Black Cats out of the last six league games at Villa Park.

In four of the last five encounters in B6, we’ve failed to score.

“They’re under no more pressure than we are, Arsenal, Chelsea too, everyone has their own pressure.” – SHERWOOD ON SUNDERLAND

What We Pray the Football Gods Will Provide

Sherwood’s uber-attacking lineup was a bold experiment and quite frankly, one that almost failed. Credit must be given to Notts County who made the game an entertaining spectacle, but from a defensive perspective it was a little worrying for Villa fans.

Changes are always made by managers for cup ties but there is a sense that Sherwood is still trying to strike a balance with the side. Despite the attacking prowess seen on Tuesday, we haven’t been particularly dangerous going forward in the league.

If we fail to score, it will be the first time we’ve done so during the first two home games of season in a top division since 1946!

With Agbonlahor struggling for form it would also be great to see Scott Sinclair continue his welcome knack of scoring to build on his mid-week hat-trick.

Hopefully we see a well-rounded display from Villa on Saturday with more of the attacking football seen in the League Cup – without the errors in defence!

Why Villa Have Got This Game in the Bag

If Sherwood wants to improve upon last season it goes without saying that Sunderland at home should be pinpointed as a target for three points.

Remarkably the Black Cats have only won one of their last TWELVE league matches away (against Everton in May).

Despite a positive start under Advocaat who guided them to Premier League safety, Sunderland find themselves on a six game winless streak.

Last Tuesday saw a much-changed backline consisting of Hutton, Baker, Sanchez and Richardson. The mysterious illness that has plagued Bodymoor Heath might mean more defensive changes against Sunderland but it shouldn’t matter too much – Sunderland have scored just one goal against Villa in the last seven league encounters.

Besides, a win ratio is at stake. If we don’t win on Saturday, Sherwood’s Premier League win ratio will fall below 50% for the first time!

Considering Villa are unbeaten in the last eight league meetings and Sunderland have taken only seven points from eleven league away games this year, the odds are in our favour.

Grealish carried Villa out of trouble against Notts County, and with him in the side Villa looked exciting again. His creativity will be vital (particularly with the impressive Traore set to miss out) against a Sunderland side who could take a defensive approach to the game.

If Villa can cut out the defensive errors shown against Palace and Notts County, we’ll start to look more like a side challenging for a top 10 finish.

UTV.

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