By Arthur Fane
LONDON, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Southampton must be ready for a backlash from "wounded animal" Aston Villa when the Premier League strugglers meet at Villa Park on Saturday, manager Nigel Adkins warned.
Villa, entrenched in a miserable run of form, suffered a shock 3-1 defeat at fourth tier Bradford City in their Capital One (League) Cup semi-final, first-leg meeting on Tuesday.
"They'll be a wounded animal after that defeat against Bradford in a game they'd have been expected to win," Adkins told Southampton's website (saintsfc.co.uk).
The teams are separated by one place and one point - with Villa 16th and Southampton 17th, just above the drop zone.
Both are in dire need of a victory with Saints having drawn three and lost one in their last four league games, while Villa have lost three and drawn one of their last four - and conceded 17 goals in the process.
"The players have been on a good run of form, so the confidence is there - we're going to Villa Park confident, strong, fit and with a desire to get three points," Adkins said in reference to his team's draws with Fulham, Stoke and Arsenal over the holiday period.
Southampton have Nathaniel Clyne and Gaston Ramirez again but remain without the injured Adam Lallana. Key defender Jose Fonte suffered a knee injury in the FA Cup mauling by Chelsea last weekend and Jos Hooiveld is set to deputise in centre back.
Villa also have injury issues but have been boosted by the return to training of Dutch defender Ron Vlaar, although this game may come too soon for him.
"Ron (Vlaar) trained a little bit yesterday so hopefully he will have no adverse reaction and he might join in this morning. That is a plus," Villa manager Paul Lambert told the club's website (avfc.co.uk).
"I don't know if he'll be in from the beginning as he hasn't done enough until yesterday but he is round about."
Lambert said Darren Bent, Marc Albrighton and Chris Herd were definitely out of the game, while goalkeeper Shay Given is a doubt after sustaining a hamstring injury. (Editing by Justin Palmer)