Sunderland v Aston Villa 2016
It’s difficult to get excited about Villa’s ‘must win’ games – we’ve recently bottled several opportunities to get substantial points on the board. Sunderland have relegation worries on their mind as well, but have four more points than us – a loss for either side could make Premier League survival even more unlikely. Can Villa finally show the character to prevail in a crucial relegation clash? It’s the worst two teams in the Premier League, so don’t expect total football.
the Black Cats have failed to score in six of the last eight league games against Villa
Allardyce on Sunderland’s chances
“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 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.”
Garde on Sunderland
“I am very focused on what I have to do. I know it’s getting difficult but there are still 19 games to play and 57 points to win.
“There are still enough to reach the target.
“Yes it is getting tougher. But I am still optimistic.
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.”
14 March 2015 Sunderland 0 Aston Villa 4.
A clinical display at the Stadium of Light showed Villa under Sherwood at their best as Benteke and Agbonlahor bagged two goals each.
Sunderland – Last five matches at home: W 2, L 3
Villa – Last five matches away: D 2, L 3
One to Watch
Jermaine Defoe – The experienced striker has tormented Villa in the past and has scored four goals this season for struggling Sunderland.
Facts to Sweep Under the Carpet
So which version of Aston Villa will turn up? The battling Villa side that create chances until the final whistle (but ultimately draw) or the Villa side that look like they’ve already accepted relegation?
It must be difficult to escape an atmosphere of negativity amongst the Villa ranks – even Tom Fox recently stated how Villa are equipped to handle relegation.
Since victory at Bournemouth, Villa have picked up just two points in the following nine league away games since. During this time we have failed to keep a clean sheet.
Sunderland have been poor recently but unlike Villa they have managed to pick up a few wins at home, including victories over Newcastle and Stoke (3-0 and 2-0 respectively).
According to the stattos, Villa have the lowest shot conversion rate in the Premier League so far this season at 9.8%, and if that wasn’t bad enough, main attacking threat Jordan Ayew is suspended…
Sunderland have conceded 38 goals this season – the worst in the top flight
What We Pray the Football Gods Will Provide
It seems daft to read Garde’s repeated comments that Villa still have time to climb out of the relegation zone. While his optimism is admirable, you do wonder how long it will be before it’s mathematically impossible, and judging by recent performances, it won’t be long.
The ex-Lyon manager has generally improved performances but has sometimes confused Villa fans with his team selections. Strangely, Garde chose not to continue with the Ayew/Gestede partnership that worked well against West Ham.
It’s a sign perhaps that Garde still isn’t sure about his strongest XI, and you can hardly blame him.
With Gil and Grealish continuing to be benched, hopefully the right balance is apparent within a squad, as Villa will need creativity from a source other than the suspended Jordan Ayew.
Why Villa Have Got This Game in the Bag
Villa fans always enjoy the long journey to the Stadium of Light. We’ve lost none of the last nine league encounters with Sunderland (W4, D5), and who can forget the 4-0 thrashing last season that signalled the end of Gus Poyet’s reign as the Black Cats’ manager?
Even with attacking options as toothless as Villa’s, we should be encouraged by Sunderland’s defensive absences, with Kaboul, O’Shea and Coates all doubts ahead of Saturday’s clash.
Our leaky defence could also be given a day off – the Black Cats have failed to score in six of the last eight league games against Villa, and amazingly, Villa have won the last three trips to the Stadium of Light without conceding once.
We’re hardly in a position to comment on poor home records, but Sunderland have scored just nine home league goals this season. Only, erm, Villa have a lesser tally (with six).
Sunderland have conceded 38 goals this season which is the worst in the top flight. Surely these stats point to a decent opportunity for a first Garde win, especially when you consider we have had longer to prepare for the match.
Win this weekend and there’s a very slim chance we can use it as a springboard to safety. We might as well go down fighting.
Hopefully we see a performance indicative of a team who feel they should stay in the league, rather than a team who have already accepted the worst.
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