Wednesday 22nd September
Opponent: Blackburn Rovers
Venue: Villa Park
Kick Off: 19:45
Tomorrow nights game against Blackburn Rovers symbolizes the start of a new era under Gerard Houllier at Villa Park. The Frenchman has been briefed by chairman Randy Lerner to get some silverware and the Carling Cup may well represent his greatest hope. The trophy was his first as manager of Liverpool in 2000-01 and the 63 year old hols fond memories of the tournament. He couldn’t have asked for a much harder 3rd round tie though against the side that Villa knocked out in the semis last year after the memorable 6-4 second leg victory.
Houllier has stated that he will not play a “lesser team” in Wednesday’s match up but has confirmed that some changes will be made. Some of his decisions have been made for him with the injury to Richard Dunne meaning that Carlos Cuellar should partner James Collins in defence. John Carew may also miss out through injury which could result in a recall for Emile Heskey, who Houllier signed at Liverpool. Stewart Downing sustained a gashed shin against Bolton but is expected fit although the winger may be rested to allow Ashley Young to revert to a more familiar wide role.
Youngsters, Ciaran Clark, Eric Lichaj, Barry Bannan and Nathan Delfouneso will all be hoping for a chance alongside the August Player of the Month at Villa, Marc Albrighton. Nigel Reo-Coker will also be eager for a call up after being dropped at the weekend to make way for fit again Stephen Ireland. Steve Sidwell has also returned to fitness and may take a seat on the bench for the game.
Opposing manager Sam Allardyce will be relishing the idea of ruining Houllier’s big day and exacting revenge on Villa for last years defeat. After Villa took a 1-0 aggregate lead into the second leg at Villa Park, Blackburn overturned this deficit early on through two goals from Niko Kalinic. Villa struck back and completed a superb comeback to mark an astonishing game but the Croatian striker will be the visitor’s main threat once more. Rovers will be looking to exploit any rustiness Carlos Cuellar may be feeling after weeks on the sidelines with a calf injury.
Good news for Villa sees Blackburn with a host of absentees through injury though they could not take advantage of a similarly weakened Bolton side on Saturday. Blackburn are without key midfielder David Dunn along with Keith Andrews and Vince Grella. Ryan Nelsen may also miss out with a foot problem as well as striker Jason Roberts.
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