Sunderland v Villa match preview: It's not Lambert v O'Neill
It was an obvious angle for journalists as they questioned Paul Lambert in his press conference ahead of the Sunderland game.
Martin O'Neill is not only a former Villa boss. He's also one of Lambert's managerial mentors, alongside Ottmar Hitzfeld.
Lambert was more than happy to wax lyrical about his gaffer at Celtic, speaking positively about O'Neill's man-management skills - the ability to get the very best out of his players.
But while acknowledging the news agenda and going along with it, he made a very telling point in his radio briefing.
"Knowing Martin and the way he is, he will want to win. But we are not playing! It's not him and me. It's Sunderland v Aston Villa."
That's the key. It's about players. It's about their quality, desire but also, vitally, their current confidence.
Sunderland will be smarting from their derby loss to Middlesbrough in the Capital One Cup, where they were booed off at full-time.
Villa, on the other hand, scored a last-minute goal to see off Swindon and reach the quarter-finals of the competition.
The Stadium of Light is an intimidating venue and O'Neill will be showing the chest-thumping skills he's so renowned for on the eve of the game to spark his stars.
But the buoyancy in the claret and blue camp could well work in Villa's favour, as Lambert readily acknowledges.
"Any win is vital no matter what level you are playing or who you are up against.
"Winning breeds confidence. At 2-0 we were really comfortable at Swindon. Then we became complacent and thought the game was over.
"Swindon are an honest group of lads and kept on going. But I was delighted with the response to come back and win."
It's a point that O'Neill accepts too.
"It was a great victory for them at Swindon to come back and score a last-minute winning goal. It puts them in the quarter-finals of the competition.
"In that sense it keeps their momentum going."
That word is so key - momentum.
Villa will be eager for a positive result against the Black Cats as they aim to start a push up the Barclays Premier League table during the festive period.
However, if you listened to the pundits you'd think our players may as well take a holiday in November and not bother fulfilling their fixtures.
It's certainly not a viewpoint Lambert shares as he looks to Sunderland, Manchester United, Arsenal and Reading.
"It's not something that scares us. If I really thought like that there's no point in turning up.
"Every game in the Premier League is really hard. The big ones are no different.
"It's something I am looking forward to, not shy away from."
It's that positive outlook and determined approach that should work in Villa's favour long-term too.
Lambert doesn't fear anyone. And he doesn't set up his teams to fear anyone.
Every press conference he talks of an approach laced with flair and fluency.
It's no different this weekend.
"All the teams managed by 'the gaffer' are right at you and this one will be no different.
"We're going to have to weather that as well but by the same token we have to get at them too.
"It's not a game where we will go up there and sit back and wait and wait.
"We have to be out of the blocks quick."
Match: Sunderland v Villa
AVTV DON'T MISS
Villa boss Paul Lambert is hoping to welcome back Ciaran Clark [knee].
Joe Bennett returns from suspension while Karim El Ahmadi misses out after picking up his fifth booking against Swindon.
Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill has no fresh injury concerns ahead of the visit of his former club. But Titus Bramble remains a doubt with a hip problem.
Villa will be wearing their home kit of claret and blue.
LAST TIME OUT
Sunderland 2-2 Villa
Villa's team have averaged ten key passes (chances created) per game this season, placing them 12th in the Barclays Premier League.
Sunderland are on a five-match unbeaten streak against Villa but have won only one of their last seven league and cup meetings at the Stadium of Light.
Ron Vlaar is yet to be dribbled past by an opposition player all season.
The Black Cats have the worst goalscoring record in the Premier League this season. Five of their six goals have come from Steven Fletcher, and the other was an own goal by Newcastle's Demba Ba.
Sunderland are strong defensively though - only Arsenal have conceded fewer goals.
None of Villa's first XI last weekend have ever started a Premier League game with another club.
Darren Bent scored 36 goals in 63 appearances for Sunderland before joining Villa in January 2011.
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Go to full match coverage for Sunderland 0 - 1 Aston Villa (2nd November 2012) >
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