Paul Lambert’s struggling Aston Villa side come into their home clash with Manchester United in high spirits after claiming only their second Premier League victory away at Sunderland last week.
Allied to their League Cup victory over Swindon, this two match winning run represents Villa’s best form of the season under Lambert. However, league leaders Manchester United are sure to represent one of the home side’s toughest challenges yet with Villa only defeating Sir Alex Ferguson’s men only once in 33 Premier League encounters.
Lambert has Karim El Ahmadi to select again after the midfielder missed the win at Sunderland through suspension. However, Eric Lichaj misses out after picking up a one-match ban for accumulating five yellow cards. Irishman Enda Stevens could come in at left-back in place of Joe Bennett, who is a doubt with a knee injury. Record signing Darren Bent remains out with an ankle injury so the in-form Christian Benteke will continue in his place up front.
For Sir Alex Ferguson’s men, Chris Smalling is in contention for his first Premier League appearance of the season after making his comeback from a broken metatarsal in the Champions League victory against Braga. His return makes welcome news for the Red Devils, who have fellow central defender Jonny Evans doubtful, as well as Phil Jones and Nemanja Vidic absent through long-term knee injuries.
Elsewhere, Nani will be missing after picking up a hamstring injury while Shinji Kagawa remains on the sidelines. Top goalscorer Robin Van Persie looks set to return to the starting line-up after coming off the bench to score the crucial equaliser in the week against Braga.