Aston Villa-Sunderland Preview
LONDON (SE) - Two of the Premier League's worst attacks will be on display Saturday at the Stadium of Light when Aston Villa hope to heap more pressure on their former boss Martin O'Neill and Sunderland.
Sunderland have scored six goals for the Premier League's worst total, with Aston Villa just one better with seven. The Black Cats are in 14th place on nine points while Villa are one spot over the drop zone on seven.
Both fixtures last season between these sides ended in draws. It finished 2-2 at Sunderland on Oct. 29 on Stephane Sessegnon's equalizer in the 89th minute before O'Neill's return to Villa Park on April 29 was a scoreless affair.
O'Neill has called for improvement after Sunderland crashed out of the League Cup on Tuesday with a 1-0 defeat to Middlesbrough. His side featured Steven Fletcher, Louis Saha and Adam Johnson but was unable to get on the scoresheet.
"I think you learn more about people in adversity," O'Neill told Sunderland's official website. "We need to get a grip of the situation and prepare ourselves for Saturday, it's a different competition and it's a big game for us."
Fletcher remains the only Premier League goal scorer for the Black Cats with five, with the club's other tally an own goal. Sunderland have one goal in their last four matches.
Defender John O'Shea joined O'Neill in saying the attack must improve.
"We have to be creating more chances in games, especially at home and we need to start playing like a team and that is the main thing we will be working on for Saturday," O'Shea said.
"It's going to take a lot of hard work over the next few days but we will make sure that our attitude is spot on, make sure we sure the right commitment and we need to score goals and win matches."
Aston Villa will travel north trying to end a 13-match winless run in away matches in the league including five draws. The Villans have not scored more than twice in any of those matches.
Paul Lambert's side, however, managed to surpass that total Tuesday in a 3-2 victory at third-tier club Swindon Town in their League Cup match. Christian Benteke scored his second goal of the match in the 90th minute after Villa blew a 2-0 half-time advantage.
Benteke also scored in last Saturday's 1-1 draw with Norwich City that extended Villa's winless run in the Premier League to five matches.
Gabriel Agbonlahor had the other tally Tuesday for Villa. Agbonlahor is one of the few remaining Villa players from O'Neill's days with the club, and has yet to score in the Premier League this season.
"There's a game on Saturday so we didn't really want extra-time," Agbonlahor told Aston Villa's official website. "To get the victory over 90 minutes was big."
Benteke's emergence has caused Lambert to leave former Sunderland striker Darren Bent out of his starting XI in three of the last four league fixtures. Bent has faced the Black Cats just once since leaving the club in 2010.
Villa will be without defender Joe Bennett, who was sent off against Norwich. Defenders Nathan Baker, Ciaran Clark and Richard Dunne are all out.