GUS POYET admits he is wary of the flexibility in Aston Villa’s line-up, as he plots an end to Sunderland’s away day blues.
Villa produced an impressive second half fightback in Monday night’s Midlands derby at West Brom after Paul Lambert’s side were trailing 2-0 at the interval.
Lambert introduced forwards Gabby Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann early in the second half and switched from an orthodox 4-4-2 formation to a 4-3-3 which almost immediately prompted two goals in nine minutes from the visitors.
Poyet is impressed by that ability to seamlessly change systems and says Sunderland’s need to be prepared to adapt as they look to avoid a sixth successive away defeat tomorrow.
“Villa are a very strange team to play against,” said the Sunderland head coach.
“They can change systems, play on the break, play direct or put three at the back.
“I’ve seen a few of their games and I’ve been surprised how quickly they’ve been able to change systems.
“That’s impressive. They can be struggling for 45 minutes, but then for the next 45, they are outstanding.
“I think it’s going to be a very interesting game because we need to win and they have been having ups and downs, even during the same game.
“They’ve had 20 minutes when they’ve played well in the last couple of games and that’s been enough.
“They have got options and we need to be ready for any situation. We need to be very good for 90 minutes.”
Agbonlahor and Weimann, along with midfielder Fabian Delph, are expected to be restored to the starting line-up tomorrow after overcoming injuries.
And with that injection of pace into the Villa side, Poyet admits Sunderland may not be able to play with the high defensive line they deployed at Stoke City last weekend.
Poyet added: “There is a balance. We will have to see how high we can play up the pitch.
“It’s really important that we keep our shape and create chances. If you pay too much attention to them, you have to change yourselves as well, which is not the idea.
“They have got pace and are difficult to play against, but they’re at home and you can’t use pace if you haven’t got space.”
Former Villa defender Carlos Cuellar is expected to be sidelined for several weeks with a hip injury, but he is the only Sunderland player missing tomorrow.
Injury doubts Keiren Westwood (shoulder) and Andrea Dossena (calf) are both set to be available, with the latter back from suspension along with midfielder Lee Cattermole.