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Premier League

  • 26 December 2010
  • • 17:30
  • • Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Referee: M. Atkinson
  • • Attendance: 39411
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Aston Villa - Tottenham Preview: Club captain Stilian Petrov could return to the home team's squad whilst Rafael van der Vaart is set for Spurs comeback

Aston Villa - Tottenham Preview: Club captain Stilian Petrov could return to the home team's squad whilst Rafael van der Vaart is set for Spurs comeback

TEAM NEWS

Aston Villa

Gerrard Houllier has received an early Christmas present with news that club captain Stiliyan Petrov and fellow midfield Fabian Delph have returned to first team training.

Villa have been without the two players for two and seven months respectively [both knee] but the game against Tottenham on Sunday is likely to come too soon for them to be included in the starting eleven. Houllier has not ruled them out for definite and it is likely that they will be on the bench for the home side.

Defender Luke Young [groin] and the pacy Gabriel Agbonlahor [illness] are slight doubts but are both expected to be passed for fit to be included in the Boxing Day squad.

Possible Starting XI: Friedel; L Young, Cuellar, Collins, Warnock; Albrighton, Bannan, Reo-Coker, Downing; A Young; Heskey.

Tottenham

Tottenham could welcome back star man Rafael van der Vaart [hamstring], as well as midfielder Jermaine Jenas [calf] and defender Younes Kaboul [hip] for Sunday's match at Aston Villa.

William Gallas will undergo a fitness test to see if he has fully recovered from the hamstring injury he picked up a fortnight ago.

Ledley King [groin] has trained this week but is not deemed fit enough to play, whilst forgotten man Jonathan Woodgate is not expected to feature until near the end of the season.

Possible Starting XI: Gomes; Hutton, Dawson, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Modric, Palacios, Bale; Van der Vaart; Defoe.

Villa looking to end Boxing Day hoodoo

The home side entertain Tottenham at 5.30pm on Boxing Day, knowing that they have just recorded one win in their last nine fixtures on the same date. Gerrard Houllier's men will be confident after recording a 2-1 win against local rivals West Bromwich Albion in their last game a fortnight ago, but Spurs will provide a much sterner test.

Villa fans would be forgiven for not being too optimistic for the visit of Harry Redknapp's in-form side as their team have not kept a clean sheet in their last seven Premier League games, with the win against West Brom only their fourth league victory of the season.

Houllier's reign has not started as smoothly as he would have hoped, with fans expecting the club to challenge for the European spots, not to be embroiled in a possible relegation battle. With rumours of a January clear-out on the way, a win against Spurs would be the perfect tonic for Villa fans hoping their side can begin to climb the table.

Spurs hoping that excellent form can continue to defy statistics

Harry Redknapp's men will arrive at Villa Park in high spirits after recording a credible 1-1 draw against champions Chelsea in their last game and in the middle of an impressive run that has seen them beat fierce rivals Arsenal at the Emirates.

The statistics suggest that Spurs should struggle against Villa - they have not kept a clean sheet for an incredible 16 league games and have only won twice of their 18 Premier League trips to Villa Park.

They have also one just one competitive game against London this season, a remarkable statistic for a team that have qualified top of a Champions League group including Inter Milan and are simultaneously keeping up with the Premier League's top four. Spurs are unbeaten in their last six league games and will hope that their attacking flair continues to cover up their defensive frailties in this Boxing Day clash.

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Last Five Matches
Odds
Team News
Available Squads
24Brad FriedelGoalkeeper
43Eric LichajDefender
24Carlos Javier CuéllarDefender
19James CollinsDefender
13Stephen WarnockDefender
12Marc AlbrightonMidfielder
19Stewart DowningMidfielder
50Jonathan HoggMidfielder
16Fabian DelphMidfielder
11Gabriel AgbonlahorStriker
-Emile HeskeyStriker
1Bradley GuzanGoalkeeper
6Ciaran ClarkDefender
20Nigel Reo-CokerMidfielder
46Barry BannanMidfielder
14Nathan DelfounesoStriker
19Stilian PetrovMidfielder
8Robert PiresMidfielder
1GomesGoalkeeper
6Alan HuttonDefender
4Younes KaboulDefender
20Michael DawsonDefender
32Benoit Assou-EkottoDefender
7Aaron LennonMidfielder
19Luka ModricMidfielder
8W. PalaciosMidfielder
11Gareth BaleMidfielder
23Rafael van der VaartMidfielder
18Jermain DefoeStriker
23Carlo CudiciniGoalkeeper
5S. BassongDefender
21Niko KranjcarMidfielder
9Roman PavlyuchenkoStriker
25Peter CrouchStriker
8Jermaine JenasMidfielder
22Vedran CorlukaDefender
Players to Watch
Marc Albrighton
Marc Albrighton
Position: Midfielder
Squad Number: 12
Games Goals YC RC
0 0 0 0
Big things are expected of the young winger, who burst onto the season after graduating from Villa's academy last season - making his debut at the famous Luzhniki Stadium in a 2-0 UEFA Cup loss to CSKA Moscow.

The winger's pace and fearless attitude is a constant menace for defenders and the Tamworth-born midfielder shone Villa's last game against West Brom - who must surely regret not signing him at a young age.

Ashley Young is often Villa's main hope of unlocking defences but Albrighton's ability to beat the full-back time after time will prove crucial if Villa are to overcome a strong Tottenham side.
Luka Modric
Luka Modric
Position: Midfielder
Squad Number: 19
Games Goals YC RC
0 0 0 0
The pint-sized midfielder has often been overshadowed by the performances of Gareth Bale and summer signing Rafael van der Vaart this season. Whilst their performances have been admirable, it is Modric who keeps Spurs ticking over and regularly provides the attacking spark for the Harry Redknapp's attacking outfit.

The Croatian has sat slightly deeper to accommodate Van der Vaart but has settled in the role effortlessly, underlining why his manager describes him as 'world class' and adding fire to rumours that Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti views Modric as his primary transfer target.

Tottenham are unlikely to let their star man leave in a hurry and the little magician's quick thinking and superb passing range will be key if Spurs are to continue their unbeaten run at Villa Park on Sunday.
Prediction
Aston Villa have a number of key players returning from injury and a 2-1 win against West Brom could have signalled the end of their poor run, but I expect the quality of Spurs to prove too much for Gerrard Houllier's underachieving side.

The statistics show that Tottenham struggle at Villa Park but the attacking quartet of Luka Modric, Aaron Lennon, Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart behind the instinctive finishing of Jermain Defoe will have Villa fans worried.

The home side have quality in their side too, with Ashley Young, Stewart Downing and Marc Albrighton able to cause a leaky Spurs defence problems - but it is at the back where Villa could really be exposed.

Expect goals and an open game. Tottenham to record just their second win outside of the capital this season.
Editor's Prediction

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