Writer: Gary Johnson
Date:Monday December 14 2009
Stadium of Light
Sunderland are facing up to the red hot Aston Villa on Tuesday evening and we need the points badly to stop a bad run of poor results in the past month. Sunderland threw away another two points against a very poor Pompey team, on the other hand Villa beat champions Man Utd at Old Trafford so things are looking scary for the black cats.
Sunderland have still got their incredible home record to fall back on and Villa have only won one away in the last six so we can hope Aston Villa have an off day tomorow evening.
Bruce will be glad that Bardsley, Richardson and Mensah are all back to the team to add options in his fragile defence. He will be looking for big performances from Turner and Cana to try and cut out Milner and Downing from creating any problems for their strikers.
Villa will be in a confident mood and we will need to start like a house on fire to get anything from this game but we managed to nearly upset them in the Carling Cup.
Bruce said: 'We have to remember we are only six months on from being nearly relegated. It is in the back of your mind. I saw the evidence of the way we gave the ball away, of why that happened last season.
'We have a big expectant crowd here, however, as a player you have to be able to handle it and handle the ball. You can`t fear it. This is the Premier League and we pay big wages because people are supposed to be able to handle the situation.
'In the last 15 minutes we didn`t do that. In the last two or three minutes we had chances to keep the ball but gave the ball away from a free-kick by running offside and then Malbranque got caught in possession on the right. We have to be better than that.
'We are a nearly team. But you have to remember we are without five-six players. We will get there. I am confident we will get there. I have already seen glimpses of it. We have to keep reminding players of where we are. Confidence is an issue.
'I feel we did enough to win the game. They had one shot on goal before they scored. We did become edgy. It transmitted from the crowd and we have to be able to deal with that edginess. We have big enough players here and we need to learn from that. But we have made decent progress this season and when everyone is fit and raring to go we will be fine.'
Mensah returns from injury and go straight into the back four to add some steel into the centre back positions. Nyron had a good game against Pompey but Bardlsey will be looking to get his place back after he has finished his one game suspension. Richardson should also come back to replace the very poor Campbell in the midfield.
After a poor few games from the ex Hull City defender, we need Turner to show he is worth the plaudits he earned last season. He will be up against pacy Agbonlahor and Heskey so his performance could hinge how the game is decided.
Villa defender Stephen Warnock suffered an injury when he collided with Park Ji-Sung of Manchester United on Saturday so he may miss this game on Tuesday.
His absence would prompt a recall for fit-again James Collins, with Carlos Cuellar moving to right-back and Luke Young switching to the left.
Milner has made himself a certainty to play in the World Cup Finals over the past few months. He has created many goals and also scored a few himself as he goes from strength to strength in the Premier League.
Aston Villa have not been beaten in the last five fixtures and are the in form team at the moment. Sunderland still boast a brilliant unbeaten since August home record but this will be their toughest test yet on home soil.
Sunderland 1 - 2 Aston Villa
Sunderland face a tricky game at Eastlands against the 'draw specialists' Man City next Saturday.
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Date:Monday December 14 2009
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