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HUGHTON'S NOTES

Posted on 24 December 2006  - 12:00

Chris Hughton's regular assessment of our forthcoming opponents - next up, Aston Villa at the Lane on Boxing Day.

Chris Hughton's regular assessment of our forthcoming opponents - next up, Aston Villa at the Lane on Boxing Day.

VILLA are going through a transitional period - perhaps there will be additions in January - but they've started very well under Martin O'Neill and are a difficult team to beat. Perhaps they will feel they haven't picked up the wins they would have wanted of late but they've drawn games and will certainly want to get something at our place following the defeat against United.

They began the season in a 4-3-3 shape with Stilian Petrov a big influence but with the introduction of Chris Sutton, they've played in a 4-4-2 recently.

Generally, it's been Sutton and Milan Baros up front - although that wasn't the case against United - with Sutton the target man alongside the running ability of Baros. They can also turn to Juan Pablo Angel. Gabriel Agbonlahor has had a wonderful start to the season and will be their main offensive midfielder with Petrov. Gavin McCann is also in that midfield with Steve Davis on the left.

Olof Mellberg has played a lot of games at right-back this season with Gary Cahill partnering Liam Ridgewell centrally and Gareth Barry on the left. Barry offers them good width and quality down the left and has been involved in a lot of goals this season - as we all remember from our draw at Villa Park.

They've had a very good season and with Petrov back, they have their main influence and inspiration. It's a tough game but we will look to bounce back ourselves after Newcastle.