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Friedel Hoping to Repent in Rovers Return

Blackburn Rovers visit Villa Park tomorrow in the FA Cup fourth round, a cup fixture which is getting a little boring now don’t you think. This season Villa knocked Rovers out of the League Cup in Gerard Houllier’s first game in charge in a 3-1 home win. However, Blackburn got their revenge in the league fixture at Ewood Park later in the season with a 2-0 win via a Morten Gamst Pedersen and a day to forget for Brad Friedel. The former Rovers keeper struggled with crosses all game, culminating in a free-kick from the wing which sailed straight over his head from the Norwegian international. Villa will be hoping to get one up on Steve Kean’s side once again and progress to the fifth round of their only cup hope for this season. On top of that a win would be their third in succession and stretch an unbeaten run to 5 games in all competitions.

Gerard Houllier has confirmed that the only two players that are definitely not available for selection ahead of Saturday’s game are Luke Young and Stephen Ireland who both have knee injuries. This would suggest that Fabian Delph is back in contention and the manager confirmed that he would be rotating his squad in the coming weeks.

Jean Makoun is a doubt with a slight thigh problem and is unlikely to be risked however new signing Kyle Walker does return and Houllier has confirmed that the young defender, who Capello has been tracking for a potential England call-up, will start in the cup. Whether this means that Carlos Cuellar drops out I don’t know but I would suggest Walker may come in at left-back for Tuesday’s debutant Nathan Baker. Ciaran Clark is available once again and will be hoping for a chance at centre-back Houllier looking at the possibility of resting a defensive partnership of Dunne and Collins which has finally come good of late.

Emile Heskey will also be vying for a starting berth after missing out on a return against Wigan last time out. He is likely to come in for Darren Bent who is cup-tied having played for Sunderland in the last round against Notts County. Marc Albrighton will be hoping to return after being dropped against Wigan with Bannan and Petrov also hoping for a return to the starting XI.

Rovers have announced the signing of contract extensions of veteran defenders Ryan Nelsen and Michel Salgado and Steve Kean also confirmed that they are close to agreeing a new deal for (former?) wantaway captain Chris Samba after Villa showed a strong interest in recent weeks. Samba should start at Villa Park but defenders Nelsen and Phil Jones are unavailable.

Phil’s namesake and new signing Jermaine Jones should start in the middle and fellow recruit Roque Santa Cruz is also avalaible and likely to partner Nikola Kalinic up front. Young Canadian midfielder David Hoillett will be hoping to build on a fantastic performance and indeed goal from last time out against West Brom. The visitors only other absentees are central midfield duo Vince Grella and Keith Andrews.

Pre-Match Prediction

Possible Starting XI: Friedel; Cuellar, Clark, Collins, Walker; Albrighton, Petrov, , Reo-Coker, Bannan; A Young; Heskey

Key Man: Brad Friedel

Goalscorer(s): Heskey x2

Final Score: 2-1



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