This Saturday’s Premier League clash between Blackpool and Aston Villa will see opposing manager’s Ian Holloway and Gerard Houllier come together for the first time since the Charlie Adam transfer debacle. It is fair to say that Holloway was not favourable of Villa’s approach for his star man and the Blackpool manager launched a series of verbal attacks on his French counterpart. The fact that Houllier is from across the border became quite a talking point in a frankly childish and senseless tirade between the pair. Much of the pre-game interest will therefore circulate around the warmth, if any, of the hand shake between the two, detracting from what is essentially a vital game for both sides in the fight to avoid relegation, and you can get your tickets for the Blackpool vs Villa clash on TixDaq. The return fixture at Villa Park earlier in the season was also not short of a talking point or two after Holloway made 10 changes to his squad and was subsequently fined for fielding a weakened team last month. Despite this ‘weakened team’ the Seasiders almost picked up a result in the Midlands and would have secured a point were it not for a last minute winner from Villa centre-back James Collins.
Gerard Houllier will be hoping to take an internationally intact Villa squad to Bloomfield Road after England manager Fabio Capello flew out to Denmark with four of his prized assets. The likes of Ashley Young, Stewart Downing and Darren Bent, who SkySports confirmed would start the game on Wednesday night, were all drafted in along with Gabby Agbonlahor who was forced to withdraw due to personal reasons. Perhaps the most surprising inclusion of all was that of Kyle Walker, on-loan from Tottenham, who has made an impressive start to his tenure at Villa Park and in turn received his first senior international call-up.
Marc Albrighton and Nathan Delfouneso both started yesterday’s game with the England Under-21s against the Italian youth set-up, coming through the game unscathed. Fabian Delph was also named in the preliminary squad to travel to Empoli but pulled out over concerns regarding his long-standing knee injury picked up at the beginning of last year. This problem is set to keep the young midfielder out once again, who along with defender Luke Young is Houllier’s only senior long-term absentee.
James Collins came up against his defensive colleagues Richard Dunne and Ciaran Clark last night but in captaining Wales, the big man was unable to prevent a 3-0 defeat to the Republic of Ireland in the opening game of the revived Home Nations tournament. All three completed the 90 minutes but it remains to be seen as to whether Houllier will rest some of his ‘on duty’ internationals at the weekend.
Jean Makoun was named as the man of the match in his home debut against Fulham after impressing against United in the game previous but the newly recruited midfielder withdrew from the Cameroon squad with a calf problem being treated as a precaution in time for the Blackpool trip. New signing Michael Bradley is in line for his first start after obtaining international clearance and will hope to join Makoun in the middle.
The home side will be hoping to bounce back from last weekend’s epic clash at Everton where they eventually ended on the wrong side of a 5-3 thriller. Goals are a given in any game involving Holloway’s tangerine troops with the club adopting an attacking style unparalleled by any team to have been promoted the season before. Unfortunately for Blackpool, after an impressive start to a season in which they were hot favourites for relegation, many teams have exposed this tactic and some questionable defending of late and the club have slipped perilously down the table.
Goalkeeper Paul Rachubka came in for his first start of the season against the Toffees after replacing Ricahrd Kingson, woeful in the midweek loss to bottom club West Ham. Sadly Rachubka didn’t exactly make the strongest claim to keep the keeper shirt in conceding 5 goals last time out but the Englishman is set to be backed by his manager for the second game running.
Much of Holloway’s hopes will be pinned on skipper Charlie Adam who attracted wide interest last month with Villa failing, pretty miserably, in bids of £2.5m – £4m. Striker DJ Campbell is a former Birmingham City striker whom the Villa fans will no doubt be jeering come the weekend, but represents a sufficient threat to any Premier League defence.
Former Villan Marlon Harewood will be hoping to exact revenge against the club were he failed to impress but he is unlikely to partner Campbell with the likes of James Beattie, having signed last month, higher up in the attacking pecking order. Keep an eye out for young winger Matt Phillips if he plays. The former Wycombe man has impressed in brief glimpses this season and caused the Villa defence all sorts of issues in last year’s fixture.
Possible Starting XI: Friedel; Walker, Cuellar, Dunne, Clark; Albrighton, Makoun, Bradley, Young; Heskey, Bent
Key Man: Jean Makoun
Goalscorer(s): Bradley, Young, Bent
Final Score: 1-3
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