Sunderland-Aston Villa Preview

RYAN WILLOX (STATS Football Writer)
The Associated Press

Premier League basement dwellers Sunderland visit Aston Villa on Saturday still seeking their first away win of the campaign.

The Black Cats have lost five consecutive away league matches and 11 of their last 13 dating back to mid-January, tallying just four points on their travels.

Sunderland manager Gus Poyet believes Paul Lambert's side don't get the credit they deserve and knows securing three points against the Villans will be no easy task.

"I think they are a very difficult team to play against," Poyet told the official club website. "People don't realise the strength of Aston Villa. On a normal day or a better day it's a difficult team to play against. They've got options, they change the system. They've got power, they've got speed, they've got youth and they can run forever so they've got plenty of things."

Sunderland (2-1-9) do lead the Premier League in one unwanted category with the most red cards so far this season (4). They were given some good news this week when Wes Brown's dismissal for a challenge on Charlie Adam in last Saturday's 2-0 defeat to Stoke City was overturned on appeal.

Even taking into consideration the rescinded card, the Black Cats have still seen red more than any other side this campaign.

Villa (4-3-5) come into this match off the back of a stirring comeback in Monday's West Midlands derby that saw them recover from going two down inside the first ten minutes to snatch a 2-2 draw.

Ashley Westwood scored the equaliser after Karim El Ahmadi had begun the comeback in the 67th minute. It was Westwood's first goal for the club and he believes the fight-back was typical of the spirit within the side.

"We had a good talk at half-time," Westwood told the official club website. "We have a never-say-die attitude and that saw us through. We never know when we're beaten. That's a great thing to have in a team.

"The gaffer (Lambert) believes in his players 100 per cent and that faith showed on the pitch. We managed to produce good performances when we really needed them last season. The second half here we needed a good display and we produced it."

Although unbeaten in three, the Villans have won just one of their last six Premier League matches, a 2-0 home victory over Cardiff. They've also drawn three and lost twice in that time. Remarkably Villa are looking to put together back-to-back home league wins in the same season for the first time since August 2010.

Villa did the league double over Sunderland last season for the first time since the 2005-06 campaign. The Villans bagged six in the corresponding fixture in April, with Christian Benteke grabbing a hat-trick. Andreas Weimann, Gabby Agbonlahor and Ron Vlaar also scored for Villa while Danny Rose netted for the Black Cats. Agbonlahor scored the game's only goal in a 1-0 Villa win at the Stadium of Light last November.

Since 2000 Sunderland has won just four of 20 meetings with Villa, losing and drawing eight times in the Premier League. They have not won any of their last four against the Villans, losing twice and drawing twice. However Villa have won only two of their last six home games against the Black Cats.

As well as Brown, Sunderland will have Lee Cattermole and Andrea Dossena available for selection after they completed three-match bans for their respective red card offences. The players saw red within five minutes of each other for fouls against former Sunderland players Ahmed Elmohamady and David Meyler in the 1-0 loss to Hull City.Villa are still without long-term injury victim Charles N'Zogbia but have recalled Marc Albrighton from a loan spell at Wigan Athletic.

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