West Ham v Aston Villa preview & team news

Updated: August 17, 2012

The Premiership returns this weekend and for both West Ham and Aston Villa there is a sense of cautious optimism as they prepare to face each in their opening day clash at Upton Park, kick off 3.00pm.

West Ham will be looking to mark their return to the Premiership with a victory that will get their campaign off to the perfect start, while Aston Villa will be looking to improve on their poor showing last season which saw them finish just two points above the relegation zone.

Speaking ahead of their game at the weekend Hammers defender Gary O’Neil believes that under Sam Allardyce West Ham can enjoy a fruitful campaign.

“I think we’ve got a good chance,” said the 29-year-old. “We’ve strengthened already and I think we’ll strengthen more. We’ve got a good squad anyway.

“We did well last season. We had a little blip in the middle when we drew too many but we didn’t lose many games at all. I think we lost one game in the second half of the season and that was to Reading at home.

“I think we’ve got a decent start with some winnable games there so I’m really looking forward to it.”

Equally excited is Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert who admits that he is looking to his striker Darren Bent to lead the way this season.

“Darren will be huge, absolutely huge.

“He’s a goalscorer. Every team needs them. You can’t just rely on one guy to score you the goals.

“But his influence at the football club is huge as a result of what he has done in his football career up to now.

“He had a fabulous goalscoring record at Sunderland and if you look at it, his goalscoring career here is phenomenal.It is a big plus for us to have him fit.”

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