Aston Villa travel to Man City tomorrow off the back of a fantastic 4-1 win over Blackburn but with really defensive worries to concern Gerard Houllier. Carlos Cuellar, James Collins and Luke Young all remain sidelined, while youngster Nathan Baker is still suffering from concussion after a punch in the head from Paul Robinson at the weekend. One of Stephen Warnock or Habib Beye will surely be in the squad at the very least this time around having turned out for the reserves yesterday. Makoun remains suspended and Robert Pires may well be rested with age against him despite a good performance against Rovers. If Warnock and Beye continue to be overlooked it leaves Villa with 3 fit defenders, though Fabian Delph deputised well at left-back last time out. A young defence involving Walker, Clark and Delph will find it much harder to cope against the likes of Tevez, Dzeko and Balotelli than against a misfiring and abject Blackburn front line.
It remains to be seen as to who the strength of squad that Manchester City will field but a domestic trophy will be high on their agenda alongside the Europa League this season with the league title slipping away but not out of reach. The aforementioned front three of Tevez, Balotelli and Dzeko all started in the disappointing 1-1 draw with Fulham so it is unlikely that they will all start again.
Balotelli netted a hat-trick in the last game at Eastlands against Villa and will be hoping to add to that. Milner and Barry will again be looking to feature against their old clubs with the likes of David Silva adding to City’s attacking threat against a weakened Villa back line. One man who is still certain to miss the game is Adam Johnson due to an ankle injury, with Nigel de Jong (ankle), Vincent Kompany (hip) and Shay Given (shoulder) also out.
Michael Bradley will once again be hoping for a first start for Villa with Houllier set to rotate. Barry Bannan will also be vying for a midfield place after being left out of the entire squad at the weekend. Reo-Coker’s recent form should see him keep his place in the side, with Ashley Young, Stewart Downing and Marc Albrighton to lead the attack with the potential of Emile Heskey filling in for the cup-tied Darren Bent.
These sides have met nine times in the FA Cup, with City leading the figures with five wins. Villa have two victories and there have been two draws between the sides. The last meeting in the cup was in round five of the 2006 competition when the game finished 1-1 at Villa Park with City advancing in the replay with goals from Georgios Samaras and former Villa man Darius Vassell.
Aston Villa’s last victory at Eastlands was back in April 2007. John Carew and Shaun Maloney were on target for Martin O’Neill’s men that day.
Possible Starting XI: Friedel; Walker, Dunne, Clark, Delph; Downing, Reo-Coker, Bannan, Albrighton; A Young; Heskey
Key Man: Fabian Delph
Final Score: 1-1
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