Date: 15th December 2006 at 12:35pm
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Bolton travel to Villa Park two points and two places better off than their hosts. Having won every 5.15 kick off this season, Bolton will be looking forward to continuing this trend against Martin O’Neil’s rejuvenated side.

Bolton have been on a bad run, punctuated by two important wins at home to Arsenal and West Ham. They’ve played OK in every game except the one against Reading and, if they had taken their chances in recent weeks, would be breathing down the necks of Chelsea. Signs in the West Ham game were promising. All the strikers scored and Anelka was seen smiling! Diouf will be missing for this one but Anelka and Davies will be handful.

Martin O’Neil has stopped Villa from losing easily and has really worked on their defensive play. Their biggest problem has been too many draws.They have only lost once at home this season but have drawn three games. Boro, Fulham and Spurs have all come away from Birmingham with a point.

History suggests that this game will be a draw. Most of the matches in the last few seasons have seen the two teams sharing the points. Last season’s game started in blinding fashion – with all four goals in a two-all draw scored within the first nine minutes. Bolton fans will point to a second half goal that was wrongly flagged for offside but then we would, wouldn’t we.

Always a tight game and i don’t expect this one to be any different. As always the first goal is key!

Martin O’Neil is wary of the Bolton threat.

‘It is going to be hard. Bolton played wonderfully well against West Ham,’ he said referring to the 4-0 win at The Reebok which ultimately cost Alan Pardew his job.

‘We have got to be really careful and we have got to be able to defend set-pieces.

‘You know that they are coming in at the end of the day. You’ve got to be able to defend the first one, and then you have to defend the second one and it will come in relentlessly.’

‘We are going to have to have a look at things and iron a few things out. Famous last words. Every coach will tell you ‘we are going to try and sort this out’. Doing something about it is what it is all about.’

‘Not only do Bolton have that (the aerial threat) in their armoury, they also normally have Diouf who fortunately is suspended for this game,’ said O’Neill. ‘I’m quite pleased about that because he has been playing brilliantly – but they also have the French centre-forward.’

Villa have a few problems in the goalkeeping department with both Sorensen and Taylor out. They’ve signed Kiraly as a quick-fix but it will be interesting to see if O’Neil goes for the new signing or for the young lad Olejnik. Gareth Barry returns from suspension.

Diouf is suspended but Tal Ben Haim returns from his suspension. Fortune is out with an injury. Tal, Stelios or Vaz Te should be in for Diouf.

Prediction? This is the hard part. It’s probably going to be a 1-1 draw but it might be 1-0 either way. Bolton-Villa games are too close to call!


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