SUNDERLAND have pinpointed Christian Benteke and Gabby Agbonlahor as Aston Villa’s dangermen tonight.
The duo are their team’s leading league scorers and Black Cats head coach Paolo Di Canio has first-hand experience of the pair – when Agbonlahor notched an opener and Benteke scored two in the 3-2 Carling Cup defeat of his Swindon side in October.
“We know all about the quality of Christian Benteke,” he said.
“Swindon played better than Villa did in that cup game, but Benteke made the difference when we made individual errors.
“When Villa express their maximum potential, it is on the counter-attack – they can counter in an instant.
“And it is not just Benteke, it is Gabby Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann – they can hurt even the very best teams.
“So we will look at ways of reducing the chance for them to play the sort of football they love to play.
“Benteke is a player who is their main threat. He can change the balance of a game, the direction of the game and he has scored 15 league goals this season – if he had not, then maybe they would now be in the position of a Reading or a QPR.
“After Benteke, there is Agbonlahor – he took can win games on his day.
“Villa have other players, but they are the two main men.”
Di Canio, though, has prepared thoroughly for this evening’s game at Villa Park – a game which will command the rapt attention of the two teams’ relegation rivals as the 2012/13 Premier League season reaches its climax.
And having gone so close to beating Villa with Swindon six months ago, the Italian is quietly confident he can go one better with Sunderland tonight.
“Our defenders are fantastic and have done a top job against good sides already,” he pointed out.
“So we are not worried.
“We will work more as a team than as individuals and make sure they don’t get many chances against us – like we did so successfully against Everton.”
“It is different now from how it was at Swindon. I go there with better players and, at this moment, we are also playing better than them as a team.”