SAFC v Aston Villa

Preview: Aston Villa v Sunderland

by Ashley Houghton

A look ahead to tonight's Barclays Premier League clash (KO 8pm).

Sunderland travel to Aston Villa tonight looking to extend their winning run to three following a string of fine performances under new head coach Paolo Di Canio.

Since the Italian took the reins, the Wearside outfit have lost narrowly at Chelsea before securing memorable wins over Newcastle United and Everton.

Villa trail Sunderland by three points but lead their nearest relegation rivals, Wigan Athletic, by two points, with the Latics having  a game in hand following their 2-2 draw with Spurs over the weekend.

In 2013, Villa have only lost to sides in the current top 12, and before their defeat at champions Manchester United, had picked up four valuable points with an away win at Stoke and a home draw with Fulham.

The Black Cats will be looking to extend a good recent record at Villa Park which has seen them lose only once in their last five visits.

Sunderland are missing their top marksman, Steven Fletcher, for the rest of the season whilst Lee Cattermole and Wes Brown are also long term absentees but they will boosted by the return of Craig Gardner who has served his two-match ban.

Phil Bardsley is also available, but injured striker Connor Wickham remains sidelined.

Joe Bennett is a doubt for Villa after picking up an ankle injury in Monday’s defeat at Old Trafford but barring that they have no fresh injury worries.

Despite the team struggling at times this season,  goal-scoring  is proving to be no problem for Christian Benteke (19), Andreas Weimann (11) and Gabriel Agbonlahor (9).

Monday’s game will be the 176th meeting between the two sides; Villa have posted 77 wins and Sunderland have won 54 of the encounters, whilst there have been 44 draws.