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Villa v Pompey – Match Preview

Portsmouth face Aston Villa tomorrow looking for their point of the season.

The South Coast side currently sit bottom-of-the-table, after losing their five opening league games of the season.

Villa on the other hand have had a mixed start to the season, suffering from a first day 2-0 loss to Wigan at home before surprisingly beating Liverpool 3-1 at Anfield.

Manager Paul Hart has no fresh injury worries, and has the added possibility of Steve Finnan coming back into the squad, after recovering from a hamstring injury picked up during pre-season.

Aruna Dindane is a player who is set to miss out however, working extensively on his own training programme to build his fitness.

Villa forward John Carew is pushing for a recall to the side, as is Luke Young, who remains in contention for his first appearance of the season.

If newspaper reports are to be believed this morning, Nigel Reo-Coker’s place in the side could be up for grabs, after a reported bust-up with manager Martin O’Neil.

The Sun claimed the two men had to be pulled apart, after both were seen grappling each other to the floor during a training session.

Reo-Coker was said to be unhappy with the lack of first-team opportunities available this season, often being used as a makeshift right-back during most of his Villa career.

If team spirit in the Villa camp was said to be low, the opposite could be said of Pompey.

All week positive Pompey propaganda has been splashed across the official website, stating how we’ll start winning sooner or later.

The excuses of the team not gelling have remained a constant excuse, with news emerging Tal Ben Haim hadn’t even trained with the squad before Pompey’s last encounter, against Bolton.

Yet despite that, manager Paul Hart decided to hand him a debut anyway. Good logic? In my opinion, more like scary logic.

To be fair to Tal however, he didn’t have too bad a debut, and was desperately unlucky to concede a penalty, a penalty I still find hard to believe was given.

Ben Haim is expected to start alongside Younes Kaboul in the centre of defence, with Nadir Belhadj and Anthony Vanden Borre occupying the roles of ‘full-backs’.

I’m hoping in all honesty that specific training has been aimed at the latter two players, as their defending against Bolton was almost non-existent.

Former Liverpool defender Steve Finnan has an outside chance of making the squad, as suggested earlier.

The Republic of Ireland international returned to full training earlier this week, and will be hoping to make his Pompey debut sooner, rather than later.

If Finnan were available, my view would be to play him instead of Vanden Borre. I would rather see an experienced backline in place.

Manager Hart was given the dreaded vote of confidence midweek by owner Sulaiman Al Fahim, with the UAE businessman confident of Hart’s ability to turn the team’s fortunes around.

While much of the mainstream media have taken that as a hint of Hart’s potential soon departure, most Pompey fans realise that isn’t the case at all.

We’ve been taken over by a man who hasn’t got a lot of money to his name – point proven when Al Fahim ‘secured finance in principle’ earlier this week.

Hart’s here for the long-term, so we may as well unite, rather than protest and get behind the team and his players.

I don’t think too many people are expecting a result tomorrow, at least in favour of Portsmouth, but you never know.

Villa winger James Milner has already told his side not to be complacent, and expect a tougher challenge against Portsmouth than they would in the top ten.

I think if were able to pick up a point tomorrow, it would be a fantastic point to earn. If we pick up nothing once again, expect pessimistic journalism and fans alike.

All we can do is hope – Play up Pompey!

Kick-off: 1500 BST Stadium: Villa Park

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