Gary Rowell column - Aston Villa’s upturn is a worry for Sunderland

Tim Sherwood
Tim Sherwood
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YOU CAN’T underestimate the importance of Saturday’s game with Aston Villa – a team just one point and one place below Sunderland.

Villa have just had a morale-boosting cup win against West Brom, and in their last Premier League game against the same opposition, scored a late winner which has rejuvenated them and given their season a lifeline.

I’m expecting a tense and nervy game this weekend between two teams who can’t really afford to lose, as both are far too close to the drop zone for comfort

Those two back-to-back victories were Tim Sherwood’s first as manager and have got him up and running after he lost his first two games in charge.

I’m expecting a tense and nervy game this weekend between two teams who can’t really afford to lose, as both are far too close to the drop zone for comfort.

Villa are also the Premier League’s lowest scoring team, with Sunderland’s record not much better, and that’s another reason why Saturday’s game doesn’t promise to be high on quality or entertainment.

However, despite Villa’s abysmal scoring record in the Premier League this season, both their strikers Gabby Agbonlahor and Christian Benteke (if fit) have caused damage to Sunderland in the recent past.

Their return to form could be down to Sherwood’s more positive outlook, as under Paul Lambert, Villa were very negative and that always makes things more difficult for the strikers.

Sunderland could do with their own strikers returning to form, which would be helped with better service up to them, and maybe, like Villa, a more positive attitude would bring improvement.

In the last game against Hull City, the first half was as uninspiring as anything we have seen this season and the team must have a better shape and balance to it than at the KC Stadium.

Sunderland can’t afford another bad start on Saturday, there’s been far too many of them where we’re on the back foot and it just frustrates the crowd.

The combination of Sherwood’s appointment and wins in their last two games has brought a feel-good factor back to Villa, and that makes them much tougher opponents than if we were playing them just a couple of weeks ago.