Writer: Gary Johnson
Date:Tuesday January 4 2011
Sunderland head into this game after winning easily against a poor Blackburn last weekend. However, this game will be a much tougher test of our already fragile squad.
Bruce has bemoaned the Christmas period as he has lost over four key players during this schedule. The key to this season is his strength in depth and players stepping up and this is what is needed again for this match.
Villa find themselves at the wrong end of the table and we could be playing them at a good time. They managed a great point against Chelsea but still conceded three goals.
If we can use Welbeck, Bent and Gyan to full use we have every chance of a good result at Villa Park.
'I watched the Chelsea game and Villa look back to their best,' he said.
'They looked like the team which has finished in the top six over the last couple of years and I think that's because they are no longer hamstrung by injuries or suspensions.'
'Maybe the real old Aston Villa is about to surface again. Either way, it will be a tough old game, we know that.'
'It always is at Villa Park and we won't be deceived by the fact they're in the bottom half of the table. Yes, their form hasn't been great, but they'll have been given a lift by the Chelsea result and they'll want to improve on their away form this evening.'
Bruce added: 'As I said before, this ludicrous schedule of fixtures, it takes a toll on the players and that has proven to be the case with Lee Cattermole.'
'He has a back injury and he's aggravated it. Thankfully it's not a stress fracture, but we've been advised to give him complete rest for a month and that will mean he'll miss January.'
The major doubt is Agbonlahor who should be just fit for this game but not fully match fit.
Luke Young and Fabian Delph are still out with knee injuries, but Stephen Warnock is available.
Sunderland have been linked to him in recent weeks, and he is by far the biggest threat for Villa on Wednesday night.
Downing will cause damage from the wide areas and our defence needs to cut his balls into the box out for a chance to win.
Titus Bramble will continue to be the skipper in place of the injured Lee Cattermole.
Gyan is a doubt also but should still be in the squad and be on the bench again.
This column should just always be Darren Bent! He was back amongst the goals and missed a few sitters but at least he has his confidence back.
Villa would love a player like the Dazzler for them so let's show them what they are missing!
We have kept 10 clean sheets this season - the equal-most in the division with Manchester City.
Villa have only won one of their last eight league matches, taking five points out of a possible 24.
Referee: Kevin Friend Assistant referees: Darren Bond & Mike Mullarkey Fourth official: Chris Foy
1 - 1 Got a feeling this could be a really tricky game for Sunderland but we should play with no fear for a change away from home.
Sunderland enter the third round of the FA Cup against some magpies before the real ones arrive the weekend after!
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Date:Tuesday January 4 2011
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