Alex McLeish’s side have failed to pick up three points since the beginning of October and have been on a downward spiral ever since the 4-1 thrashing the suffered at Manchester City. Their performance at the Stadium of Light last week was encouraging, with Stiliyan Petrov starting to deliver goals from midfield and Gabriel Agbonlahor looking sharp. It’s their failure to maintain an advantage that came back to bite them once again at the Stadium of Light. They’ve given up nine points from winning positions already this season which is statistically the worst in the league this season. Former Mackem Darren Bent should have sealed the points with a late chance but his tame side foot effort from close range was saved by Kieron Westwood. The England striker has found the net only three times this season and needs to rediscover his shooting boots if Villa are to start winning games and make a push for Europe. That hasn’t been so easy for the club with their seven match unbeaten run at the start of the season papering over the cracks with only two wins included in that sequence. In fact they’ve won only seven of the last 24 games and with this fixture notorious for draws, four of the last five have ended that way, they could go into the international break without tasting defeat in four games with an away trip to Tottenham awaiting them.
Norwich on the other hand have been one of this seasons surprise packages and have soared up to eight with a run of three wins, two draws and a defeat in their last six games. That loss came at Manchester United at the start of October with Paul Lamberts men pushing the champions close only to concede two late goals and go home empty handed. Midfielder Anthony Pilkington was the villain that day missing two gilt-edge chances to score but his performances this season have been nothing short of remarkable considering he was playing League One football with Huddersfield 12 months ago. Lambert, who will oversee his 100th game as manager, has constructed a team made out of lower league players but they certainly haven’t looked out of place playing some tremendous football much to the amazement of those who tipped them for a season of struggle. The wheels did almost come off at Carrow Road last week after finding themselves 3-1 behind to rock bottom Blackburn. A battling display saw them recover the two goal deficit with captain Grant Holt coming off the bench for a second consecutive week to earn a point for the Canaries. It says a lot about the performances of summer signing Steve Morison, who scored a superb volley against Rovers last week, with the Welshman keeping out Carrow Road hero Holt for most of the season. Lambert is expected to start with the same lineup he has used for the past six games but will have to sort out a defence which has failed to keep a clean sheet in 11 league games.
Stiliyan Petrov – The Villa skipper has been much improved in front of goal this season and he’ll need his shooting boot’s on this weekend if they are to beat Norwich. His inspiration and passing ability will be key to unlocking the Canaries leaky defence and ending a run of three games without a win.
Steve Morison – After making step up from the Championship Morison has performed so well that he is keeping Canaries hero and captain Grant Holt out of the side. His hold up play and intelligent use of the ball will come in handy against Villa with his tussle with Richard Dunne one to keep a close eye on.