Fans will soon be getting sick of this fixture; today’s game is the first of three meetings between these two sides within January, the other two making up the Carling Cup semi final. And, while the FA Cup remains an important competition, both teams will undoubtedly have an eye on the first leg of the Carling Cup on Tuesday, meaning that resting players is a possibility.
Martin O’Neill is sure to make several changes to his side. Veteran goalkeeper Brad Freidel could be rested and replaced by Brad Guzan, while Ashley Young is once again available after he missed Villa’s 1-0 home loss to Liverpool through suspension – James Milner is likely to make way for the winger if O’Neill decides to rest him – if not, Nigel Reo-Coker will drop to the bench. Emile Heskey is also likely to feature in the squad, illness meaning that he too missed the Liverpool game. In addition, summer signing James Collins may make a return to the starting line up. The defender has not featured since the 2-1 loss to West Ham, and while the current central defence partnership of Richard Dunne and Carlos Cuellar have been generally solid, the heavy schedule and conceding of four goals in the last two games mean that one of them is likely to make way for Collins. There is also the possibility of Cuellar instead moving to right-back in the place of Luke Young. As well as regular benchwarmers Steve Sidwell and Fabian Delph, young starlets Marc Albrighton and Nathan Delfouneso could also make an appearance. Sam Allardyce is also expected to rotate his squad, with Franco di Santo on hand to start after his loan deal from Chelsea was extended. David Dunn is back in full training after injury, and Brett Emerton faces a late fitness test, but both may be rested for Tuesday.
- Stephen Warnock challenges Franco di Santo in the two sides’ last encounter; a 2-1 victory for Blackburn
Possible Starting 11:
Aston Villa: Guzan; L Young, Dunne, Collins, Warnock; A Young, Delph, Petrov (c), Milner; Agbonlahor, Heskey.
Blackburn Rovers: Robinson; Chimbonda, Samba, Nelsen, Givet; Hoilett, Andrews, Nzonzi, Pedersen; Roberts, Diouf.
Both Villa and Blackburn will want to avoid a replay to add to their already busy month, so killing off the tie at the first time of asking will be more beneficial. While the FA Cup is probably low on each team’s list of priorities, the victor of this game will gain the psychological tie ahead of the midweek Carling Cup clash. And although Blackburn may possibly be more motivated after a winless December, Villa may just edge it in a close, scrappy encounter.
Villa 1-0 Blackburn
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