Villa V Sunderland Preview
Stadium of Light
Aston Villa make the long journey ‘oop North’ to face a Sunderland side desperately trying to fight their way out of the relegation zone. All the latest from Vital Villa!
Sunderland, ever since the opening day of this season, have been known for their late comebacks and Martin O’Neill is fully aware that his side will have to concentrate fully for every minute of the pitch, to make sure Roy Keane’s men don’t pop up in injury time to ruin the Villans away day out:
'The number of goals they have scored late on in games is a credit to them.” O’Neill told avfc.co.uk. “They keep going to the end.
'They might think it's been a tough season but I think they have learnt valuable lessons in every game. It will be tough for us.
John ‘on fire’ Carew has been talking to the official website this week and has sought to praise the Villa faithful for their attitude, and wants them to help the team pick up 3 points when they visit Tyne & Weir.
'Villa fans have been fantastic with the players this season.
'They cheer us loudly all the time. They are fantastic with every player.”
I feel it may be a case of selective hearing from Carew, the big man obliviously missing the latest moans and groans from the Holte regarding Nigel Reo-Coker and Marlon Harewood. Either that or he should go and see his GP, assuming that is that he can get an appointment.
Meanwhile on the general day to day stuff, Villa’s powerhouse defender Martin Laursen believes that the successes of the first half of the season can be put down to the solid back four team of himself, Wilfred Bouma, Zat Knight and Olof Mellberg.
Laursen, who must have either made these comments prior to the 3-1 thumping by Portsmouth, or is completely mad, told avfc.co.uk: 'It can be hectic because you never have time to think in the Premier League. You need to know what your fellow defenders are going to do at certain times so it's been good to have a settled backline.
'The back four is very experienced - none of us are 20 anymore - and I think that's important.
'To have younger players going forward and experienced ones at the back is a good mix.'
Personally, I’d prefer a mix of youth and experience, as Martin O’Neill’s persistence with the generally average Zat Knight means that there is no place for 22 year olds Curtis Davies and Gary Cahill to even gain a look-in. With Liam Ridgewell already departed for scummier climes, it would be a massive shame to let Cahill slip away, especially after that goal against the Blues!
Anyway, enough Villa talk as I have made a vow to at least try to cover a bit more about the opposition in future.
Roy Keane, who Vital Villa predicts will not be on the Christmas Card list of former Leeds United and Manchester City player Alf-Inge Håland for the 6th year running, has gone down the same Looney-tunes route as Martin Laursen this week.
The former United midfielder has apparently nominated the Sunderland supporters for a place on the New Years honours list in a move that sees David Beckham’s OBE in 2003 look like a good idea in hindsight!
Speaking to the official Sunderland website:
'The fans have been the highlight of the season so far, which is something I don't want to be saying. I'd rather be talking about our league position!
'If there were awards going out, I would give one to our fans; I thought they made the atmosphere last week at Chelsea despite the fact that we were getting beaten.
'The fans will have a big bearing on the [Villa] game. It should be a good atmosphere because Villa normally take a few fans away from home.'
You have to worry when your supporters are the highlight of the season so far, that’s going to make one shocking end of season review DVD.
Keane has learnt this week that he will be losing a player to the African Cup of Nations in January, with midfielder Dickson Etuhu being named this week in the Nigerian cup squad. However manager Roy Keane was somewhat more philosophical about the loss, compared to Harry Redknapp who had a bit of a whinge:
'Of course it's bad news but it's out of our hands. There are a lot of clubs worse off than us, some have four or five players away.”
Obviously I am not a football manager, but I believe the trick to not losing players to the African Nations, is to not sign, and then rely on a large number of Africans? How’s about that Harry? With common sense like that I think I’ll be higher up Soho Square’s list of candidates should the inbound Fabio Capello see sense and not take up what must be one of the worst jobs in football!
Alternatively just take a light-hearted viewpoint:
'Hopefully, they will get knocked out quickly and he will be back with us' Keane added!
Sunderland Team News:
Sunderland have lost Liam Miller to suspension, however former Manchester United winger Kieran Richardson has returned to continue trying to put his career back together.
Nyron Nosworthy and Carlos Edwards are still long term injury problems.
Unlike the Chelsea game, I think Keane will feel he’s in with a chance against Villa and will bring Scottish international goalkeeper Craig Gordon back into the first team.
Player to watch: Sunderland Fans MBE, Craig Gordon, Dwight Yorke
I’ve given this week’s one to watch to three different elements of Sunderland as I must admit I know practically nothing about their squad. The Sunderland fans are a mad breed of die-hard supporters, and back their team to the hilt, let’s face it they still hold the worst Premiership record ever so to re-visit the Stadium of Light following that is a fair feat!
Craig Gordon is a superb keeper who reportedly turned down a move to Villa in the summer (daft git) and it usually takes something spectacular to beat him, either that or a parting of the Sunderland defence that takes on biblical proportions!
As for number three, well we know all about Dwight Yorke now don’t we?
Aston Villa Team News:
Villa are likely to be without Bulgarian International Stillyan Petrov once more as he continues to recover from hamstring trouble.
Having rejected the chance of staying on at the club that gave him his big break citing ‘limited first team chances’ as the reason, Luke Moore is unlikely to return to the Aston Villa bench. At the very least I hope he won’t!
I’d like to say, following a 3-1 spanking by Portsmouth that Martin O’Neill would look to mix things up a bit, however he is one of a rare breed of ‘modern’ managers that doesn’t particularly fiddle with the team much. I’m not asking for a Rafa style rotation policy Martin, let’s face it our squad isn’t big enough, however players made some big errors last weekend so why not give them a rest?
Player to watch: Zat Knight
Now Zat, a large quantity of the Villa faithful are starting to wonder what you have to do before Curtis “the pub team” Davies is given his chance at the heart of the Villa defence. With Gary Cahillinios’ loan potentially coming to an end, your days could be numbered sunshine. Expect a performance from Zat this weekend, assuming he rises to the challenge.
Match Facts & Stats
The referee for the fixture on Saturday is Mr Steve Bennett who hails from Kent who was in charge as Villa defeated local rivals, and all-round scum Birmingham City.
Mr Bennett denied Birmingham two penalties that Steve Bruce felt denied his side a win.
Vital Villa would like to happily admit that Mr Bennett made the correct decisions, and potato head should have perhaps focused on the poor team he has now left behind to be re-united with Emile Heskey.
Lawro has predicted a Villa 2-1 win which is nice. Mystic Mug hasn’t been in touch yet. I say it will be a 3-1 victory for Villa!
The next fixture for Villa is the visit of Manchester City to Villa Park on the 22nd of December. One day after the Vital Villa alcohol-fest, it will be interesting to see how members react to having to get up for the match the following day. I know I’m worried!