Saturday October 23rd 2010
Venue: Stadium of Light
Kick Off: 15:00
Villa travel to Sunderland with a commendable away record against the hosts. Gerard Houllier’s side have stretched out an unbeaten run of 5 games against the Black Cats and will be looking for a first win in 3 after defeat to Tottenham was backed up by a good draw with Chelsea last weekend. Steve Bruce’s men have only lost once at home in their last 14 outings and will be looking to extend an impressive unbeaten run of their own. The home side haven’t lost in 6 games but have become early contenders for draw specialists with results tied in their last 5 games, 6 in total this season. Bruce’s side have capped a decent start to the season by taking points off of the likes of Liverpool, although that doesn’t seem too much of a feat right now, Arsenal and Manchester United. Villa will have a strong squad available after recovery from injuries and will be looking to build on the battling performance that earned them a point against the champions.
Bad news for Villa regarding the availability of Darren Bent for the hosts as the striker has overcome groin problems to start on Saturday. Bent scores a massive majority of Sunderland’s goals playing in a lone role for the home side but could be joined by record signing Asamoah Gyan or loanee Danny Welbeck. Bruce will be without Kieran Ricahrdson and Andy Reid who join long term absentees David Meyler and Fraizer Campbell on the treatment table.
Houllier has selection problems of his own due to a gutsy performance by a weakened side against Chelsea last time out. The likes of Habib Beye, Ciaran Clark and Stephen Ireland will all hope to have done enough to face Sunderland after filling in last time out. Beye will fight it out with Carlos Cuellar for the right back spot after it was revealed that Luke Young’s hamstring injury was worst than anticipated. The 31-year-old will face at least two weeks on the sidelines with tests revealing a minor tear to the muscle. Richard Dunne has been classed fit after being replaced early against the champions by Clark and should start alongside Collins once more. Marc Albrighton has recovered from an illness which kept him out last weekend, though an improved performance from Stephen Ireland may mean he will settle for a place on the bench.
Emile Heskey also returns after a back problem and will be fighting for his place with John Carew after the Norwegian staked his claim for a starting berth against Chelsea. Gabby Agbonlahor is still on the treatment table following minor groin surgery though Houllier stated that he hoped the striker could partake in some training next week. Nathan Delfouneso will also be eager to step up to the first team after great form for the reserves has seen him score 3 in the last 2 games, settling the affairs in Villa’s favour on both occasions.
The game will be one of the harder away days of the season outside the top 6 with Sunderland looking to improve on an excellent record at the Stadium of Light. Villa’s French manager will be hoping intensive training and fitness sessions will help his side back to winning ways after failure to do so in their last two attempts. This game will be tight with probably a goal either way deciding the outcome but I’m backing Villa to stretch their record in their visiting capacity this time out.
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