Villa travel the short journey to St. Andrews in what is a massive League Cup Quarter Final draw with fierce rivals Birmingham City. The two sides met last month, producing probably the dullest derby in decades and a strong contender for worst Premier League game of the season. Villa were riddled with injuries and remain severely depleted as they look to turn around a poor run of results. A spirited comeback against Arsenal on Saturday was all in vain due to a dire first half display but did encourage some fans ahead of the nail biting clash on Wednesday. Houllier’s side have won just 1 in 9 in the league though they qualified for this stage of the cup with a tense 2-1 extra-time win over Championship Burnley. Birmingham reached the Quarter Finals at the expense of League One Brentford who pushed the Blues all the way but were beaten in a penalty shoot-out.
After an underwhelming first start for his new club, Robert Pires may well drop to the bench with Stephen Ireland still looking to ignite his nightmare start at Villa Park. The Irishman came on in the second half against Arsenal and to good effect meaning he may warrant a starting berth.
Ciaran Clark bagged a brace from midfield against Arsenal and will keep his place in the side but may have to revert to a defensive role. James Collins returned to action at the weekend but pulled up late on having not trained for 10 days. Houllier expects Collins to recover and the Welshman should start alongside Dunne at the heart of the defence.
Previously Houllier has looked to blood his youngsters in the Carling Cup but with a City bragging rights still at stake after the dismal 0-0 draw last month, he will be looking to prove his doubters wrong after a stop-start reign at the club which has been greatly affected by absentees. Barry Bannan has started the last 5 games for Villa and could face a rest though this may come down to the fitness of Gabby Agbonlahor.
After making a short two game comeback, Agbonlahor was unfit to make the squad at the weekend but may have been rested with midweek in mind. The striker has a good recent record against the Blues and Houllier will be hoping he can return in time for Wednesday. The lone front man system hasn’t worked and was particularly ineffective against Birmingham last time out. Villa changed their system at half time on Saturday to two up front with Delfouneso supporting Carew changing the fortunes of the whole side.
Nigel Reo-Coker and Emile Heskey are still around 2 weeks away from a return as is Marc Albrighton who was sorely missed at the weekend and indeed against Birmingham last month. Cuellar, Sidwell, Petrov and Delph also make up the long list of absentees.
Birmingham have considerably less injury worries with James McFadden and ex-Villa midfielder Craig Gardner the most notable concerns although the latter may return to action just in time.
The Blues have overtaken Villa in the league for the first time this weekend so they undoubtedly need to be taken down a peg or two with delusions of inner City superiority seemingly getting to their heads. McLeish claimed that the gap between the two sides has been significantly bridged and unfortunately you would have to agree with him. The best way to put it right is with a thumping victory which I for one sorely need after a purple patch has left us just three points above the relegation zone 15 games in which makes for more depressing reading every time you see it.
- Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs Aston Villa – Prediction, Team News, Line-ups
- Huge Test for Emery – Aston Villa Predicted Lineup and Preview vs Tottenham Hotspur
- Aston Villa eye Europa Conference League success after impressive 2022-23 season
- Aston Villa forward Cameron Archer set to join Sheffield United in £18.5m deal
- Aston Villa in July: Four preseason fixtures as Emery aims for another excellent season
- Aston Villa make formal offer to sign Villarreal star Pau Torres
- Preview: Aston Villa vs Brighton & Hove Albion – prediction, team news, line-ups
- Preview: Aston Villa vs Newcastle United – prediction, team news, line-ups
- Aston Villa in April: Next seven Premier League fixtures
- Manchester City vs Aston Villa Preview – Prediction & Potential line-ups