MARTIN O’NEILL make his first return to his former stomping ground this weekend, having resigned his post at Villa on the eve of last season.
The Sunderland gaffer takes his side down to the Midlands looking to resurrect a recent run of form which has slumped somewhat after an excellent first few months at the helm.
Villa on the other hand will be looking to pull themselves in the right direction, and away from the relegation zone.
The Villains have occupied 15th spot in the Premier League table since mid-February and are just six points off the drop zone with five to play.
Ex-Villa boss Graham Taylor:
‘Some of the supporters have moaned and groaned because they feel Alex [McLeish] has set up his teams not to lose as opposed to set them up to win.
‘It’s an easy thing to say. The money hasn’t been available to Alex [McLeish] that had been to Martin. There was a big financial deficit and that couldn’t continue.’
Source: BBC Sport
Aston Villa Team News:
Skipper Stiylian Petrov is unavailable as he begins chemotherapy treatment for leukaemia whilst top-scorer and ex-Black Cat Darren Bent also misses out.
There is better news with regards to Chris Herd, Marc Albrighton, Ciaran Clark, Charles N’Zogbia and Carlos Cuellar who are all fit to feature.
Left-back Stephen Warnock could yet recover in time to feature at some point too.
Likely line-up: Given; Hutton, Collins, Baker, Lichaj; Bannan, Ireland, Gardner, Clark, Weimann; Agbonlahor (c).
Player to watch: Barry Bannan
One of many exciting prospects the graduate from the club’s illustrious youth setup, Bannan has featured prominently this term owing largely to the lack of senior players at Villa Park.
The diminutive Glaswegian has made 29 appearances in the league and cups for McLeish’s side this season, as well as a further five for Scotland.
Capable of playing wide or through the middle, Bannan provides an injection of creativity into the Villains midfield.
Sunderland Team News:
Martin O’Neill is without defensive duo Wes Brown (knee) and Titus Bramble (calf), whilst John O’Shea (calf) and Lee Cattermole (knee) are both doubtful.
With so few defensive options, it will once again fall to Kieran Richardson to fill in at left full-back whilst Matt Kilgallon will continue at centre-back.
Likely line-up: Mignolet; Bardsley, Turner, Kilgallon, Richardson; Larsson, Gardner, Colback, McClean; Sessegnon; Bendtner.
Player to watch: Craig Gardner
The midfield enforcer is in line for a memorable weekend as he not only heads to his former employers, who he left for fierce rivals Birmingham City, but also comes against younger brother, Gary.
The tenacious central midfielder has been a regular under O’Neill, helping to quash talk of a potential return to the Midlands.
Aston Villa –
Darren Bent (9)
abriel Agbonlahor (5)
tiylian Petrov (4)
Goal average – 1.1 per game.
Anthony Taylor –
30 games, 96 yellows & 7 reds.
Aston Villa vs. Bolton
Sunderland vs. Bolton