O’Neill to condemn ex-club Villa to nervy end to the season

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Martin O’Neill returns to Villa Park this weekend, and his Sunderland side are 9/5 to secure a win that could leave the Midlands club feeling the breath of the relegation dog-fight on the back of their necks.

Alex McLeish’s men find themselves six points clear of the relegation zone, but Bolton have two games in hand over the Villans, and Wigan are on a blistering run of form that has seen them beat both Manchester United and Arsenal in their last two fixtures.

They are 6/5 to claim a victory here that would pretty much secure their Premier League survival.

It could be a bittersweet affair for O’Neill if the Mackems can take the three points this weekend against a side that they haven’t lost to in their last four meetings.

The Northern Irishman led Villa to three successive sixth-placed finishes in the Premier League, before resigning just five days before the season kicked off in August 2010, thanks to an adoption of a sell-to-buy policy by chairman Randy Lerner.

Since the departure of the former Leicester boss, Villa have struggled to install the right man at the helm, with Gerard Houllier and current boss McLeish not exactly popular choices.

In fact, the Scot is deemed so unpopular that he is currently the 7/2 joint favourite to be the next manager to leave his club, alongside Harry Redknapp, who seems destined for the England job.

It would be a great irony if the man who came close to securing the club a European Cup place for the first time since 1983, was the man to spark their drop into England’s second tier for the first time in 25 years.

Villa are currently 10/1 to be relegated, but with only one win in their last 12 they need to address their current run of form as sides like Wigan and QPR have started to pick up points at the bottom of the league.

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