The Black Cats must travel to Aston Villa today following two disappointing results for both sides.
Sunderland were brought back down not earth following their derby day win over Newcastle by Hull City on Boxing day as Aston Villa lost out 1-0 to Swansea City.
Both sides find themselves perched just above safety. Consistency has been the downfall for both sides this season. Prior to Christmas, Villa managed to halt Manchester United’s great run of form by holding Louis van Gaal’s side to a 1-1 draw.
That same weekend, the Black Cats ran out as derby day winners for the fourth time in a row, something the club never before achieved, but Paul Lambert and Gus Poyet’s sides now find themselves going back to the drawing board in what is an important game at the wrong end of the table.
If Sunderland win they will leapfrog Aston Villa who are just one place ahead of them. They could also climb ahead of Everton, depending on how Roberto Martinez’s side fare against Sunderland’s north east rivals Newcastle.
Aston Villa could themselves climb above Everton and Stoke City, should results go their way. On the negative side, a loss for either side will not only further dent confidence from the Boxing day realists but it puts both clubs in a dangerously low position once again.
It is all well and good for Sunderland to be beating their nearest neighbours but they need to begin to find some momentum or the new year may not look so good for them. Similarly Aston Villa need to build on some of the positive results they have achieved.
Sunderland will be able to call upon Conor Wickham for this game having been out through suspension while left-backs Anthony Reveillere and Patrick van Aanholt are ruled out due to calf and shoulder injuries respectively.
Aston Villa have Gabriel Agbonlahor and Kieran Richardson out through suspension as well as a host of injuries, including Ashley Westwood (knee), Philippe Senderos (thigh), Nathan Baker (knee), Libor Kozak (leg) and Joe Cole (hamstring), according to Sky Sports.
The list of injures Aston Villa have as well as the unavailability of Agbonlahor indicates a Sunderland win but such is the unpredictability of both sides and Villa having home advantage it could easily end up as a draw with neither team being able to afford a loss at this pivotal stage of the season.
Aston Villa 1-1 Sunderland
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena
Featured image By Ian Wilson from London, England (Villa Park) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons