Tonight’s game at Ewood Park is an incredibly important one for both teams. Blackburn see the Carling Cup as an excellent opportunity to improve on a currently dismal season, while Villa are looking to establish themselves among the Premier League’s best and win their first trophy for 14 years.
The postponement of the fixture last week will certainly have affected Blackburn more than Villa. Sam Allardyce changed almost all of his starting eleven for the two teams’ last meeting – the aim to concentrate on more important priorities than the FA Cup. This backfired somewhat, as the next game Rovers played turned out to be Monday’s league clash with Manchester City, and resting players for this fixture was not an option. The 4-1 loss will have dented their confidence as well as rendering the highly altered FA Cup squad pointless. On the other hand, Villa, with the postponement of last Saturday’s game against Wigan, have allowed their players a long rest as well as keeping them in all cup competitions.
- Allardyce and O’Neill; head to head once again
Villa’s League Cup form over the past few years has been dismal to say the least. In the past two seasons they have fallen at the first hurdle, with home defeats against lower-league Leicester City and Queens Park Rangers failing to satisfy the trophy-hungry fans. But this season’s early exit from Europe at the hands of Rapid Vienna has turned out to be a blessing in disguise, a slightly less busy fixture list contributing towards an impressive cup run. The last time Villa reached the semi finals was 2004, again coming up Sam Allardyce, then manager of Bolton Wanderers. It was Allardyce who came out victorious, midfield dynamo Jay Jay Okocha helping them towards a 5-4 aggregate victory, but lost to Middlesbrough in the final. Martin O’Neill will be determined to avoid a similar outcome this time around.
Blackburn: Robinson; Jacobsen, Samba, Nelsen, Chimbonda; Emerton, Dunn, Pedersen, Nzunzi, Salgado; Kalinic
Villa: Guzan; Cuellar, Dunne, Collins, Warnock; A Young, Milner, Petrov, Downing; Heskey, Agbonlahor
Blackburn Rovers 1-2 Aston Villa
Villa’s quality, good form and well-rested squad will just give them the edge against Blackburn tonight. There is little chance that Rovers will lay down and die on their own turf, but Villa, spurred on by 5,000 noisy travelling fans, will most likely take the upper hand into the second leg.
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