Premier League Preview: Sunderland v Aston Villa
By Football News
Sunderland could move out of the Premier League relegation zone by beating Aston Villa at the Stadium of Light on New Year's Day.
The league's basement club have not been out of the bottom three since the second weekend of the season, but victory on Wednesday combined with other results going their way could give them a perfect start to 2014.
Pressure is beginning to build on Paul Lambert after Villa's winless streak stretched to five matches with a 1-1 home draw against Swansea City.
The Midlands club have only taken one point from a possible 15 and find themselves four points clear of the relegation zone.
By contrast, Gus Poyet's side extended their unbeaten run to four league games by coming from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Cardiff City on Sunday.
Poyet is hopeful Sunderland can build on that fightback as they seek a first win in six meetings with Villa.
"We need to use it (momentum)," he said. "We are at home; we have got plenty of games at home against teams in the bottom 10 and it is up to us.
"When we (Poyet and his management team) took over the distance was a big gap. Now we are one win away from getting out of the relegation three, which is a great feeling.
"Things are going in the right direction; let's hope we can maintain that consistency into the new year and (pick up) another three points.
"We need to be ready and do the basics against Villa; keep a clean sheet, keep the ball and take our chances."
The hosts are without goalkeeper Keiren Westwood (shoulder) and Carlos Cuellar (hip), while Wes Brown serves the final game of a suspension. There are also doubts over Adam Johnson and on-loan striker Fabio Borini after both were struck down with illness.
Ciaran Clark is banned for Villa, who are also set to be without Chris Herd (hamstring), Joe Bennett (back), Charles N'Zogbia (Achilles) and Jores Okore (knee).
Christian Benteke (knee) and Ron Vlaar (calf) both missed the draw with Swansea and face late fitness tests.