Written by: @GrantMilesFF
Sunderland are unbeaten in four and have built a head of steam going into 2014.
A perfect set of results could see them make their way out of the relegation zone for the first time since the second game of the season. Aston Villa were struggling at the back end of 2013 and will be hoping that a New Year is the chance for a fresh start.
Paul Lambert’s charges are winless in five but there won’t be a great deal of panic at boardroom level as they Villains had a similar struggle last year. Randy Lerner is thought to still believe in the long term project at Villa Park. A loss here though could test that resolve and they will be desperate to secure three points.
Gus Poyet will similarly know that he can’t rest on his laurels despite his teams improvement, as his side still ultimately sit bottom of the Premier League. Sunderland managed to snatch a 95th minute equaliser against Cardiff last time out and will look to build on this resolve to got one result better in front of their own supporters on New Years Day.
The hosts will be without goalkeeper Keiren Westwood due to a shoulder injury and Vito Mannone will continue to deputise in his absence. Adam Johnson and Fabio Borini have both been struck with illness and are too doubts for this one. Carlos Cuellar is also suffering on the sidelines with a hip problem, while West Brom serves the final game of his suspension.
Meanwhile, Aston Villa also have a few injuries to contend with. Chris Herd has a hamstring problem and Joe Bennett is out with a back complaint. Charles N’zogbia also joins them in the treatment (Achilles) and he joins long term absentee Jores Okore.
Christian Benteke and Ron Vlaar missed the draw with Swansea due to knee and calf injuries respectively and could both return here if they pass late fitness tests.
Poyet will be hoping that his Black Cats can secure a first win against Aston Villa in six attempts, while Paul Lambert is hoping a win here can be a turning point for his side and get them back to good form.
Sunderland v Aston Villa Pre-Match Stats
Sunderland have scored 16 goals in the last 22 Barclays Premier League games against Villa, and only more than once in a game on one occasion.
There have been four red cards in the last four league meetings between Sunderland and Villa at Villa Park.
Sunderland are the only team in the bottom eight not to have won a game against a fellow side currently in that section of the Premier League table.
Cardiff (4) were the only Premier League team to score fewer goals than Aston Villa (5) in December.
Sunderland are unbeaten in their last four Premier League games (W1 D3) - they last went five undefeated in the opening five matches of the 2012-13 season.
No Aston Villa manager has overseen a Premier League clean sheet in January since Gerard Houllier in 2011.
Sunderland have won eight and lost only two (D2) of their last 12 Premier League games in January.
Sunderland lead the Premier League this season in both own goals (5) and red cards (5).
Aston Villa have conceded the most fouls this season (253) and have the most yellow cards (43).
27% of Sunderland’s goals have been scored in the opening 15 minutes, the highest proportion in the Premier League this season.