Tottenham Hotspur-Aston Villa Preview
By TOM BENNETT
STATS European Football Writer
(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Aston Villa will have a point to prove as they welcome Tottenham Hotspur to Villa Park on Boxing Day.
Paul Lambert's side was hammered 8-0 by Chelsea on Sunday, ending a five-match unbeaten run in spectacular fashion. Just three points off the drop zone and in danger of being sucked into the bottom three ahead of the turn of the year, Lambert is keen to see his players respond with a positive performance.
"You have to bounce back and it's about how we react," said Lambert. "You can't dwell on it and start feeling sorry for yourselves. As a footballer, if you start feeling sorry for yourselves, there is only one place you are going to go.
"Now we focus on Tottenham. It's never easy to turn up and win a game but we will certainly try to bounce back as quickly as we can."
Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan, trying to bounce back after Sunday's horrific outing, has a 273-minute shutout streak at home since conceding Javier Hernandez's late goal in a 3-2 loss to Manchester United on Nov. 10.
Spurs (9-3-6) had won four in five going into the Christmas fixtures, but drew 0-0 with Stoke on Saturday to slip back into a group of four teams on 30 points - all eyeing a top-four finish this season. No team in the top half of the table has lost more games than Spurs on the road this season (four), and manager Andre Villas-Boas knows Wednesday's match will be another tough 90 minutes.
"It will be a different type of opposition to the Stoke game, but an excellent game for sure," said Villas-Boas. "Credit to Paul Lambert for overturning a situation that was difficult for him at the beginning. He has a young team, full of energy.
"There is still a long way to go," added the Spurs boss about the race for the Champions League places. "The festive period is very important. Whenever there is a midweek fixture in the Premier League teams can drop points."
Aston Villa (4-6-8) have doubts over Gabriel Agbonlahor (thigh), Darren Bent (hamstring) and Ron Vlaar (calf), but Gary Gardner (knee), Richard Dunne (groin) and Stilyan Petrov (leukaemia).
Spurs are eight games unbeaten against Villa, and last tasted defeat against Wednesday's opponents back in 2008. Goals from Steven Caulker and Aaron Lennon helped the north London side to a 2-0 win when these teams met at White Hart Lane in October. However, Villa did take a point off 10-man Spurs in this fixture last season - a result that proved hugely damaging to Tottenham's push for a third-place finish, and ultimately cost them Champions League qualification.
Updated December 24, 2012