John O'Shea

O'Shea previews Villa clash

by Stuart Vose

Skipper says away win would be 'massive'.

John O’Shea is hoping Sunderland can continue to build on their recent progress as they prepare for a Monday-night trip to Aston Villa.

The Black Cats lead a clutch of teams on 37 points, with their next opponents sitting three points back in the Barclays Premier League table.

Wins over Newcastle and Everton have given Paolo Di Canio’s side a huge boost, but O’Shea says making it three in a row on Monday would be “massive”.

It’s all well and good getting back-to-back wins, but if we could beat Villa on Monday night, that would be massive

- John O'Shea

“Back to back wins have really put everything in place in terms of what we’ve been working on in training,” he said.

“The gaffer spoke about the way things went for us against Chelsea when we did well for the first 45 minutes, and we were able to build on that against Newcastle and Everton.

“Fingers crossed we can build again [on Monday night].”

He added: “It’s all well and good getting back-to-back wins, but if we could beat Villa on Monday night, that would be massive.”

Villa carry a potent goal threat, with Congo-born Christian Benteke leading the way with 19 strikes this season, including 10 in his last 15 games.

But O’Shea says his side must be focused on making the most of their own attacking potency – of teams outside the top seven, only Southampton have found the net more times than the Black Cats away from home.

“[Villa] can really hurt you with pace and power but can leave themselves open as well,” he said.

“We have to make sure we find the right balance of coping with counter attacks whilst hurting them with attacks of our own.”

O’Shea, who is currently captaining the side in Lee Cattermole’s absence, and his defensive colleagues have conceded just two goals in the three games since Paolo Di Canio took charge.

And the former Manchester United man says Di Canio's focus on preparation is particularly important.

“The gaffer has stressed the application we put in; that focus and concentration,” he explained.

“It’s not that he wants us running everywhere during the training sessions. There’s a few little moments he wants us fully focused and that’s so important.

“The lads see what he’s prepares – whether that’s little videos on the opposition or things we can hope to take advantage of – and when they see it happening in games and watch it back, they really buy into what’s going on.”