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Match Preview: Manchester United v Aston Villa


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For the second time in a week Villa travel to Old Trafford to face Manchester United, this time in the league.

FA Barclays Premiership

Saturday 13th January 2007

Kick Off 3pm

Old Trafford

So here we go again. Another tough game and another visit to Old Trafford, where a brave second half performance saw Villa miss out on a replay in the dying seconds last weekend.

This time it's all about league points and Villa - in 13th position - could do with picking up a few points in the next few weeks, with or without some new signings. Tomorrow's fixture may look difficult but the games coming up could see a few more points in the bag as Villa look to avoid getting drawn into a fight with the likes of West Ham to find out who gets relegated along with the apparently already doomed Watford and Charlton.

Villa's team news begins with a few outgoings in the transfer market. Gabor Kiraly will not feature as he has returned to Crystal Palace. Thanks for helping out, Gabor. You made some great saves, your distribution was good and you entertained. And your apology is accepted without hesitation. Good luck with the rest of your career. Kiraly is likely to be replaced by first choice Thomas Sorensen, though Stuart Taylor is also thought to be in contention.

Eric Djemba-Djemba has joined Burnley on loan until the end of the season, not that he affects the team news. Likewise Didier Agathe and Peter Whittingham, both of whom have left the club this week. Thanks to both and good luck in the future. Phil Bardsley is ineligable having signed on loan from United but Olof Mellberg returns from suspension and may compete with Aaron Hughes at right back, or slot in at centre half at the expense of Liam Ridgewell.

Stiliyan Petrov misses out with a hamstring injury, to be replaced by Steven Davis in midfield, where Craig Gardner misses out with a groin injury. Chris Sutton, Luke Moore, Martin Laursen and Mark Delaney all remain out.

Manchester United may welcome back Edwin Van Der Sar in goal, Nemanja Vidic in defence, Paul Scholes in midfield and Louis Saha up front. Alright for some, isn't it? Vidic will replace Wes Brown who has a virus, otherwise it's a case of take-your-pick for Alex Ferguson, and I expect Henrik Larsson to play - and score - again against Villa tomorrow. It's just written in that way for some players.

Villa begin this game on 26 points which is less than half of United's 54, but then they are top of the league. We are eight points clear of the relegation zone but also 10 behind Portsmouth in sixth. We are level with Newcastle United who are just behind us on goal difference. Things are a touch rosier for United at present sitting, as they do, six points clear of Chelsea in second. It'd be almost beautiful in its irony if it weren't Manchester United.

So United will be keen to keep the gap at six points and that spells trouble for Villa. We are definitely in the market for points as well as players but I'd suggest tomorrow might be slim pickings in that respect. Hopefully the days when we have to pray for a draw away to clubs like this are numbered, but I'm afraid that for the moment they remain. So fingers crossed. Sorry if that's too negative, but I won't suspend my grasp on reality to match the opinion of others.

The inimitable Mark Lawrenson, fresh from his latest abomination...sorry, performance...on Wednesday's 6-0-6 has quite correctly ticked the box marked 'home' in his 2-0, 0-2 or 1-1 prediction list for the week. I can see him being right, as he often is by predicting such a safe array of results, but another 2-1, or equally another 3-0 would not surprise me. Other than that, I will only predict goals by Larsson and Ronaldo, and with any luck one from Gareth Barry to keep us in it.

Hope springs eternal, I look forward to being proven wrong tomorrow afternoon.

Come on you Villa boys!


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