Sunderland vs Aston Villa: Match Preview

Date: Wednesday 1st January 2014 (New Years Day) Competition: Barclays Premier League Venue: Stadium of Light Kick-Off: 15:00 Sunderland host Paul Lambert's Aston Villa on New Year's Day as they look to extend their unbeaten run to six games in all competitions, while Villa haven't won in five. Sunderland Head Coach Gus Poyet is hoping that the team's recent run can cause some momentum and finally lift them off the bottom of the table to kick start the New Year, and on top of that, sign bigger name players on the back of it. He told The Sunderland Echo:
"We have had a five-game unbeaten run and if we get a good result against Aston Villa we might be talking about getting past one or two clubs at the bottom of the table. "That would make us more attractive to potential signings we are hoping to attract. "But that's not the most important thing €“ the most important thing for us is that we keep on getting good results because it is all about maintaining our momentum."
Team News Sunderland will assess Fabio Borini just before kick off after the Italian collapsed at half time against Cardiff on Saturday, while Adam Johnson will be looking to recover from a case of the Christmas flu. John O'Shea remains doubtful with a shoulder injury while there is still no sign of Carlos Cuellar of Kieren Westwood returning any time soon. New signing Marcos Alonso is ineligible for this match. Wes Brown serves the final game of his three game ban. Aston Villa will be hoping Christian Benteke will be available for the clash and will be assessed closer to kick off. Ciaran Clarke is suspended, Joe Bennett and Ron Vlaar remain doubtful. Key Stats € Aston Villa are unbeaten against Sunderland in their past five fixtures, scoring nine and conceding three (W2, D3). € The Black Cats have failed to win any of their nine games against bottom-half opposition this season. € 27% of Sunderland's goals have been scored in the opening 15 minutes, the highest proportion in the Premier League this season. € Villa captain Ron Vlaar scored his first goal for the club against Sunderland in the 6-1 victory last April. € If the Villains fail to win it will be their longest sequence without a league victory since an eight-game run between December 2012 and February 2013. Source: BBC SportLikely Line-Ups Sunderland: Mannone, Bardsley, Roberge, Diakite, Celustka, Ki, Cattermole, Giaccherini, Larsson, Colback, Fletcher Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Luna, Westwood, Baker, Bakuna, Delph, Albrighton, Agbonlahor, Weimann, Tonev Prediction Sunderland 2-2 Aston Villa

Joseph is a sports journalist, who has previously worked for Sky Sports News, Soccer Saturday, UEFA's coverage of the Champions League and Europa League and The London 2012 Olympic Games, as well as football clubs such as FC Halifax Town, Corby Town and Crystal Palace FC.