Sunderland v Aston Villa: Cleverley counting on Sherwood factor

An improved Aston Villa can move a step closer to Premier League safety when they travel to fellow strugglers Sunderland on Saturday.

Tom Cleverley has witnessed Tim Sherwood's impact at Aston Villa first hand and feels a renewed confidence will stand them in good stead going into Saturday's Premier League clash with Sunderland.

Following a tricky start to life at Villa Park, Sherwood has overseen back-to-back wins over rivals West Brom going into this weekend's relegation six-pointer at the Stadium of Light.

Villa and Sunderland are separated by just a point and a place in the league's bottom five, with Sherwood's men buoyed by the potential returns of Christian Benteke (hip) and Ron Vlaar (calf).

The Midlands club have not lost to Sunderland in their last seven meetings, with Cleverley explaining the lift that Sherwood has brought to the club following Paul Lambert's departure in February.

"As a man, he's approachable and easy to talk to - he's a good guy. He's fitted right in here," the Manchester United loanee told Villa's official website.

"Football-wise, we know exactly what he wants from us. There's no grey areas for the boys.

"He's got us playing well. And he's got enormous passion for what he's doing here.

"We see it every day and the fans see it on matchday.

"Everyone likes to see that enthusiasm and energy on the sidelines and in training. I certainly do. When we score a goal, it's what we have been working on all week - so why not celebrate?

"It's good to see that passion on the sidelines.

"Everyone is reading off the same page. And he's lifted the place definitely."

Sherwood is without suspended pair Alan Hutton and Jack Grealish, while Lee Cattermole is banned for Sunderland.

Gus Poyet's men have not won since the start of February and have taken just seven points from their last 10 Premier League games on home soil.

While the Uruguayan is wary of the impact former Tottenham team-mate Sherwood has had at Villa, Poyet is focused solely on his side.

"It is always different when you change a manager because the players do something extra," Poyet told Sunderland's official website.

"It shouldn't be like that, we all know that, but it is natural for human beings.

"They lost a couple but they have come back to win two and for sure the confidence in the camp is different, but on Saturday it is 11 against 11 and we need to perform and we have to be better than them."