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Villa vs. Sunderland Preview: Three in a row for Sherwood?

Last week was, like, the best week in forever for Aston Villa supporters. But tomorrow brings a visit to Wearside and Villa need to make sure they stay on track.

Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

The double over West Bromwich Albion was great, everyone. We looked really good, scored four times in two games, and actually won two in a row!

But here's the thing… tomorrow's game with Sunderland may well be more important than the last two.

Aston Villa currently sit three points above the drop in 17th but just a point behind Sunderland. A win for Villa moves them farther from the drop and would put at least one more team between them and third-bottom.

If Villa lose though? It's probably one fewer team capable of going down in lieu of Tim Sherwood's men. The Black Cats have fixtures with West Ham, Newcastle, and Crystal Palace coming up after our clash tomorrow. If they get points this weekend, they're probably doing enough to pull far enough away from Villa that they're not seeing the drop.

The good news is that Sunderland are kind of in disarray right now. Gus Poyet acted like a 5-year old in a 1-1 draw with Hull City last time out and Adam Johnson got arrested for sleeping with, well, a 15-year old so it's all a bit of a mess up on Wearside.

Also there's the whole fact that they have four wins all season long. Is that bad? Yeah, that's really bad.

While Villa will again be without the bald and beautiful Alan Hutton due to suspension, Sunderland might have a bigger absence from their lineup as Lee Cattermole misses out for the same infraction; accumulation of 10 yellow cards. Jack Grealish will also be missing from Sherwood's 18 after a pretty ridiculous sending off against WBA at the weekend.

Related to the last point: These are the two worst teams in the fair play table. Fabian Delph was sent off last time. Who we all got this time around?

Christian Benteke should return for Villa which is generally pretty fantastic news. He played well in the League last Tuesday against WBA and I'll expect him to squarely be up for this one.

If I'm being honest, I'm really interested to see what Tim Sherwood does with the XI this time out. Gabby Agbonlahor was great Tuesday and Scott Sinclair played his tail off Saturday in a fantastic performance. But playing the two of them means he'd have to sit Charles N'Zogbia, who's been playing really well. And that writes off any chance of Carles Gil returning to a vital role in the Villa attack.

If there are two Sunderland players that scare me, they're Patrick van Aanholt and Jermain Defoe. The Black Cats have eight points from the four matches in which the Dutch left back has notched an assist while the former Toronto FC man is probably the guy that'll get his team going if anyone will be able to.

Also Tim Sherwood will be trying to do something Paul Lambert never did at Villa.

He's going for his third straight win.

If Villa put in the same level of performances they did against the Baggies, they'll be just fine. The Black Cats are on the edge of plummeting into a black hole and this is one of those games I don't mind being on the road for. Their supporters are getting antsy and with everything going wrong right now in the North-East, it wouldn't be surprising to see them turn on the home team if Sherwood's men are able to get ahead.

The biggest thing I noticed last week out of Villa was that they scored their goals by playing to their strengths. Gabby's goal Tuesday? Long ball to the big target man who's really good at distributing it in the right places. Agbonlahor uses his pace and finishes well.

Saturday's goals? Get out and break. Use the pace.

The combination of a couple of pacy forwards either side of Benteke is a dangerous, dangerous prospect for opponents. And while I don't think Villa have another 6-1 thrashing in them, I think they've got enough to take home all three points Saturday.