Larsson, Gardner back for Cats, but no Villa place for Bent

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Craig Gardner and Seb Larsson both returned to the Sunderland starting line-up for today’s clash with Aston Villa, writes Chris Young.

But the big news came from the Villa camp, with former Sunderland hitman Darren Bent not even included on the bench due to a foot injury.

Gardner started for the first time this season in central midfield after recovering from a dead leg, with Phil Bardsley continuing at right-back.

James McClean’s 100 per cent record league record came to an end with the Republic of Ireland international left on the bench and Larsson, who also missed the midweek Capital One Cup defeat to Middlesbrough through injury, taking his place out wide.

Stephane Sessegnon started in the hole behind Steven Fletcher, while Jack Colback continued at left-back, with Danny Rose only fit enough for a spot on the bench.

Former Middlesbrough left-back Joe Bennett returned from suspension for Villa.

SUNDERLAND: Mignolet, Bardsley, Cuellar, O’Shea, Colback, Larsson, Gardner, Cattermole, Johnson, Sessegnon, Fletcher. Subs: Rose, Campbell, Kilgallon, Vaughan, Westwood, McClean, Saha.

VILLA: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Bennett, Ireland, Bannan, Westwood, Agbonlahor, Weimann, Benteke. Subs: Given, Albrighton, Holman, Delph, Bowery, Stevens, Lichaj.