MARTIN O'NEILL makes his first return to Aston Villa since leaving the club in acrimonious circumstances almost two years ago, bringing his Sunderland side to the West Midlands to find his old club in trouble at the bottom half of the Premier League table.
The Black Cats manager, who left Villa Park in August 2010 just five days before the start of the season, makes one change from the team that drew a blank against Wolverhampton Wanderers seven days ago, with John O'Shea coming in for Kieran Richardson, who failed a late fitness test.
Sunderland feature two former Villans in the line-up, former loanee Phil Bardsley and Craig Gardner, whose brother Gary is on the Villa bench.
O'Neill's side also boast three players with connections to the blue half of Birmingham – again, Gardner, who signed for Sunderland from City in the summer – alongside Sebastian Larsson and former loan man Nicklas Bendtner.
ASTON VILLA: Given; Collins, Ireland, N'Zogbia, Agbonlahor, Albrighton, Cuellar, Weimann, Lichaj, Herd, Baker. Subs: Guzan, Hutton, Warnock, Heskey, Bannan, Gardner, Carruthers.
SUNDERLAND (4-4-1-1): Mignolet; O'Shea, Turner, Kilgallon, Bardsley; Larsson, Colback, Gardner, McClean; Sessegnon; Bendtner. Subs: Westwood, Bridge, Campbell, Vaughan, Dong-won, Meyler, Kyrgiakos.