Aston Villa v Sunderland – Match preview and team news

After facing the full force of Manchester United and Robin van Persie on their way to a 20th title last Monday, Aston Villa will be grateful for what will surely be more forgiving opponents as Sunderland prepare to visit Villa Park.

The Villans know that not only would victory boost their own survival chances, increasing the gap between them and 18th-placed Wigan to five points (though the Latics have a game in hand), it would also drag Newcastle, Sunderland and Norwich back into the fight against the drop.

Indeed, Villa boss Paul Lambert has already spoken of the importance of Monday night’s fixture and has a relatively good run of form to fall back on, that thumping defeat against Man Utd aside.

The Scot has no fresh injury concerns from that loss, with senior striker Gabriel Agbonlahor playing the full 90 minutes at Old Trafford to prove his fitness after returning from a groin injury.

Gary Gardner, Marc Albrighton, Chris Herd and Richard Dunne are all long-term absentees.

Sunderland meanwhile will head to the Midlands full of confidence after taking two consecutive wins from their first three matches since the arrival of Paolo Di Canio to take charge on Wearside.

Indeed, the performances in the victories over Newcastle and Everton, with four goals scored and none conceded, have pleased the volatile Italian to no end and a rapport already looks to have been forged between the manager and a group of players that had just looked to be losing their way under previous boss Martin O’Neill.

Di Canio welcomes back Craig Gardner to his squad after the midfielder missed the recent two victories with a suspension picked up in defeat to Chelsea, while Phil Bardsley is a doubt with the same ankle problem that kept him out of the last match.

Connor Wickham will also be missing with a calf problem while Wes Brown, Lee Cattermole and Steven Fletcher are all ruled out for the rest of the season with knee and ankle injuries respectively.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Aston Villa v Sunderland

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