Relegation is inevitable for Aston Villa at this stage of the campaign. Halfway through the Premier League season, Rémi Garde's inherited side still struggles to find it's identity, and they have just eight points to show for their efforts.
In addition to the usual woes, there are a host of injuries and suspensions to deal with. Villa would normally be okay with not fielding Ashley Westwood -- as he will miss due to yellow card accumulation -- were it not for Carlos Sánchez's injury. Jordan Veretout and Idrissa Gana have done a whole lot of running this week, they'll have to go again. Could Jordan Lyden get his first chance with the senior team?
Up front, Jordan Ayew is also banned due to picking up too many bookings. Gabby Agbonlahor is still hurt, leaving Rudy Gestede and Scott Sinclair the only senior players who could see the pitch. The Czech striker formerly known as Libor Kozák's existence is in doubt at this point. Personally, I'd like to see Adama Traoré given a shot to play centrally, paired with Gestede. Mostly because his crossing is atrocious, and it frees up a spot on the wing. To hell with it, let's trot out a 4-4-2!
Changing things up, Micah Richards is shifted to right back. He needs to be given the freedom to get forward, as this team is struggling for a difference-maker going forward. Making a return to the team will be Aly Cissokho at left back. Ciaran Clark has absolutely no confidence at the moment, meaning Joleon Lescott starts at one of the central defender positions. If Jores Okore isn't able to go, this could pose a big problem, which I would solve by throwing Tiago Iliori into the fire. Realistically, Richards plays at right centre back in this match. And we're stuck with Hutton at right back.
Jack Grealish needs another chance, and should play on the left. Carles Gil starts on the right. In possession, he will be able to drift centrally as Richards will be filling the space on the right wing. Veretout and Gana will be the central midfield pairing, and a sub will be needed around the hour mark most likely.
If there's a team out there lacking squad chemistry at a level nearing Villa's, it's Sunderland. The Black Cats are second bottom, though they have 150 percent as much substance in the point total column as the Villans. Surely Sam Allardyce will correct his team's losing streak of five straight matches on Saturday, though. If you need a win, just play Villa!
They do have some solid players, though. Yann M'Vila is a midfield boss, and Fabio Borini has his moments of quality. Jeremain Lens shredded Villa back when Tim Sherwood was still in charge, and DeAndre Yedlin's pace could pose a problem. Plus, fatigue will play a part in this match, and it will be anyone's to win. Don't bet on a draw in this one.
Aston Villa (4-4-2):
Brad Guzan; Micah Richards, Jores Okore, Joleon Lescott, Aly Cissokho; Carles Gil, Jordan Veretout, Idrissa Gana Gueye, Jack Grealish; Adama Traoré, Rudy Gestede.
Vito Mannone; DeAndre Yedlin, Sebastian Coates, Wes Brown, Patrick van Aanholt; Jeremain Lens, Jack Rodwell, Yann M'Vila, Lee Cattermole, Fabio Borini; Steven Fletcher.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments!