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Aston Villa vs Tottenham Match Preview

Sunday 26th December 2010

Opponent: Tottenham Hotspur

Venue: Villa Park

Kick Off: 17:30

Aston Villa host Tottenham in their first double league meeting of the season, after losing a 0-1 lead at White Hart Lane they were defeated 2-1. The main difference in that game was Rafael van der Vaart and there’s some untimely news for Villa on the injury front for the Dutchman this time around. Not good. Early injury to Emile Heskey did not help us in that game after the rejuvenated striker had assisted for Marc Albrighton to net his first senior goal for Villa. The forward, now back from injury, will be looking to last the course this time and add to his goalscoring return against West Brom last time out. Returns from injury and alleged bust-ups have caused changes galore in the Villa starting line-up though impressive performances from the deputising young guns have left Houllier with a rare selection headache ahead of the Boxing Day clash. Read the full preview for in-depth injury news on both sides as well as stats on the club’s past meetings.

Villa are waiting on the fitness of the Young ones at the club ahead of Sunday’s tie. Luke and Ashley have both sat out of training in the last week and are doubts for the game though a man of the match display from reserve right-back Eric Lichaj last time out should mean the young American will keep his place at right back either way. Ashley Young stood in as captain in the 2-1 win over West Brom and was kicked around somewhat leading to a knee injury that was set to keep him out against Wigan and may well do so this time around.

Return to fitness of Gabby Agbonlahor after injury could mean that Villa risk what is an insanely attacking 4-4-2 system in the absence of Young. Stephen Ireland, Richard Dunne and John Carew were all set to be dropped from the entire squad in the Wigan game that never was and it is yet to be known as to whether any of them have done enough to convince Houllier otherwise after rumours of unrest at Villa Park. Cuellar came in for Dunne who apparently had a spat with Gary McAllister and, as is usual at centre back, impressed enough to keep a place alongside Collins.

The minuscule midfield of Downing, Hogg, Bannan and Albrighton could be disrupted by the return of Ciaran Clark from a one game ban, though a battling display from Hogg last time out and the fact that Houllier may well play two up top could mean that he looks to set up a more defensive midfield by sacrificing Bannan. Despite Hogg’s decent form Nigel Reo-Coker will be hoping to step in and could return to captain the side in the absence of Young and Petrov. Albrighton and Downing have been bright sparks in a dull season for Villa and will retain their place on the wings. On a positive and unexpected note, there may be early returns to the substitute bench for the likes of Stiliyan Petrov and Fabian Delph who both stepped up recoveries this week though Steve Sidwell has all but left to join West Ham.

For Tottenham the dreaded news that Rafael van der Vaart, Villa’s downfall last time at Spurs, has returned from a hamstring injury along with Jermaine Jenas (calf) and Younes Kaboul (hip). Supposed Villa target Niko Kranjcar should also be fit but is likely to stay on the bench of what is seemingly constructed in the majority, by Villa targets. Defoe should start up front ahead of Crouch, Pavlyuchenko and Keane unless Redknapp decides to revert to a strike partnership to match the likely Villa set-up.

William Gallas faces a late fitness test but fellow centre backs Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate who rarely miss Christmas with the family, both remain long-term absentees. The Frenchman will be vying for a place with Michael Dawson and or, Sebastien Bassong at the heart of the Spurs back-line.

In 18 Premier League games at Villa Park, Tottenham have won just 2 times. Harry Redknapp is unbeaten against Villa in 9 attempts since defeat with his Portsmouth side in 2006. Tottenham are unbeaten on Boxing Day in the last 7 seasons while Villa have won just once in their last 10 Boxing Day outings.

Pre-Match Predictions

Possible Starting XI: Friedel; Lichaj, Cuellar, Collins, Warnock; Albrighton, Reo-Coker, Clark, Downing; Agbonlahor, Heskey

Key Man: Nigel Reo-Coker

Goalscorer(s): Heskey

Minute of First Goal: 26

Final Score: 1-1

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