Birmingham v Aston Villa (Sunday early)
At the end of October these two teams battled to a goalless draw in the Premier League but a few weeks later Birmingham beat Aston Villa 2-1 in the Carling Cup.
Both sides are mired in relegation trouble – Aston Villa are in the bottom three while Birmingham are only one point above. Villa’s defensive record stands out as a major concern with 38 goals against in 21 Premier League games.
Combine that with no clean sheet away from home since April 2010 and only five points from a possible 30 on their travels then Villa cannot approach this match with any confidence.
Birmingham have only lost twice at home this season but nonetheless a plethora of home draws (5) has meant only 14 points from a possible 30 at home.
In prospect nothing less than a full blooded no-prisoners taken etc etc English derby. Not pretty but difficult to ignore.
Bookies say – Birmingham 1.3/1, Draw 2.1/1, and Aston Villa 1.75/1.
Sunderland v Newcastle (Sunday)
We will hear lots about it but nothing will erase the 5-1 scoreline for Newcastle over Sunderland – that result is now in the record books.
Sunderland found a bad time to put in their worst performance of the season when these two teams last met. However, Sunderland did respond to the embarrassing loss and currently sit 6th in the table.
Newcastle sits two places below and five points back of Sunderland. Ironically given the outcome of their previous meeting Sunderland have been the more consistent of the two sides this season in the league anyway.
It was a disastrous FA Cup 3rd round last weekend for clubs in the North-East of England last weekend. Newcastle crashed out to League Two side Stevenage while Sunderland lost 2-1 at home to Notts County of League One. (Middlesbrough also went out to Burton Albion so there is not a lot of bragging in that area of England at this moment).
Newcastle rested top scorer Andy Carroll for the FA Cup but he is sure to be recalled for this one. There is not good injury news for Sunderland however. After going his first eleven games for Sunderland without a goal Danny Welbeck had hit a fine vein of form with six goals in his last nine games. However, a hamstring injury is likely to keep the Manchester United forward currently on loan to Sunderland out of the line-up.
Bookies say – Sunderland 1.15/1, Draw 2/1, and Newcastle 2.1/1
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