Aston Villa v Sunderland

Image courtesy of news.com.au
Brett Holman's Villa tackle Sunderland in a crucial match. Image courtesy of news.com.au
Aston Villa  can move a step closer to Premier League survival - and drag Sunderland  into the relegation dogfight - with a win when the sides meet at Villa Park on Tuesday morning (AEST). Victory for Paul Lambert’s side would see them draw level with the Black Cats on 37 points, five points clear of 18th placed Wigan who have a game in hand.

Marc Albrighton, Richard Dunne and Chris Herd all remain sidelined through injury and are unavailable for the hosts but Joe Bennett could be fit after being substituted with an ankle injury in the Villans 3-0 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford last week. Moroccan Karim El Ahmadi impressed off the bench in that match and could return to the starting lineup after overcoming a series of injury setbacks.

Sunderland has made a bright start under new boss Paolo Di Canio, with their 1-0  victory over Everton last weekend their second from three matches since the Italian arrived on Tyneside. Craig Gardner rejoins the squad after sitting out the past two matches through suspension, but Connor Wickham will again be missing as he battles a calf problem. Phil Bardsley faces a late fitness test on his ankle at missing out against the Toffees.

The Villans broke a five game drought against the Black Cats with their 1-0  victory when the teams met at the Stadium of Light earlier this season, but Villa Park holds few fears for Sunderland. They have lost just four of their 11 Premier League fixtures at the ground and will be tough to beat if they can show the resilience that has seen them keep clean sheets in their past two matches. Aston Villa hasn’t kept a clean sheet in their past 18 games, but has still lost only one of its past six.

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