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SOCCER

Villa hope to end poor run against United

Aston Villa has not been on the winning end of a home league fixture against Manchester United for 16 years.

But ask Villa boss Alex McLeish what could push his side over the hump this year, and he is likely to respond by underlining the importance of the Villa Park faithful.

"I think the crowd will play their part, I don't think there's any doubt about that," the manager said.

"There's that banner at the Holte End [which says] 'the 12th man', but I'm sure the whole ground will be right behind us."

Aston Villa has kept an even keel throughout the Premiership season thus far, winning three, losing three, and drawing seven to occupy eighth place with 16 points. All three of its wins have come at Villa Park.

Manchester United, meanwhile, has hit a bit of a rough patch of late. The Red Devils are winless in their last three matches in all competitions, but were held to a 1-1 home draw with Newcastle United in their most recent Premier League contest.

Injuries have also begun to pile up for Sir Alex Ferguson's men. Midfielders Tom Cleverley and Anderson are continued absences from the United lineup, but striker Dimitar Berbatov also sustained an injury during the team's midweek Carling Cup loss to Crystal Palace.

With Aston Villa's home form paired with Manchester United's recent struggles on the field and in the training room, the stars may be aligning for a shock result at Villa Park.

"Some day Villa will beat Manchester United again at Villa Park," McLeish added. "Why can't it be this weekend?"

Elsewhere on Saturday, Newcastle United hosts Chelsea at St. James' Park. It's rare that Newcastle would find itself above Chelsea in the Premiership table, but the fourth-place Magpies have a tremendous opportunity to extend their lead over the fifth-place Blues.

League-leading Manchester City hosts Norwich City as the Citizens aim to continue their unbeaten season, and third-place Tottenham goes for its sixth- straight league win when it hosts Bolton.

Blackburn looks to climb out of the cellar when it hosts Swansea City, Wigan hosts in-form Arsenal at the DW Stadium, and QPR hosts West Bromwich to round out Saturday's Premier League action.

On Sunday, Stoke City looks to build upon its 3-1 defeat of Blackburn in its last outing when it travels to Goodison Park to face Everton, while Sunderland, fresh off the sacking of manager Steve Bruce, heads to Molineux to face Wolverhampton.

Finally, on Monday, Liverpool takes an eight-game unbeaten run into Craven Cottage where it will square off against Fulham.