Aston Villa will be hoping to go one better in tomorrow’s clash with Manchester United after going 2-0 up in the home tie earlier in the season. A young Villa side were flying and well on top of the league’s top club at Villa Park but surrendered their lead in the final 10 minutes to throw away goals by Ashley Young (pen) and Marc Albrighton. United captain Rio Ferdinand revealed that he the Villa side he faced on the day were the best outfit his team had come against all season. Alex Ferguson’s men haven’t looked back since and have stretched their lead at the top of the table due to a dismal run from early leaders and current champions, Chelsea. On the injury front, all looks fairly rosy for Houllier’s side with only Luke Young and the possibly departing Stephen Ireland still on the sidelines. To read the extended match report
Gerard Houllier will have some tough decisions to make in his team selection after shuffling the pack to positive effect in the 3-1 win over Blackburn in the FA Cup. At least one change will be enforced after youngster Nathan Baker picked up a straight red for a foul on Junior Hoilett. The club revealed that they would not be appealing the ban meaning Baker will be suspended for 3 games.
The likes of Barry Bannan, Robert Pires and Nigel Reo-Coker will all be hoping impressive midfield displays will help them retain a starting berth. However, new signing Jean Makoun should be fit again to be in contention although he may well be eased into league action. Club captain Stiliyan Petrov will also be hoping to regain his place in the starting XI after being dropped to the bench for the last two games. The Bulgarian is in a similar position to Marc Albrighton who has been rested of late but terrorised Patrice Evra in the return game and could well come back in for a start.
Up front Emile Heskey returned at the weekend as record signing Darren Bent was cup-tied, now seemingly a bargain at £24m the striker is set for a recall. He is likely to come in for the lively Nathan Delfouneso who scored in the FA Cup against Blackburn for the second year running on Saturday.
Manchester United made wholesale changes in their victory against Souhampton which marked another comeback from defeat for the Red Devils. The entire back four were rested for that game, along with Edwin van der Sar who recently announced his retirement from the game at the end of the season, it is yet to be seen as to whether his opposite number, Brad Friedel will do the same. The usual starting defence of Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic and Evra are all set to start.
Javier Hernandez will be hoping his superior form to that of Wayne Rooney will keep the Englishman on the bench while a goalscoring return from Michael Owen on Saturday also puts the former Villa target in the frame. Leading scorer Dimitar Berbatov is almost certain to start but it remains to be seen who will be partnering the Bulgarian.
Possible Starting XI: Friedel; Walker, Collins, Dunne, Clark; Albrighton, A Young, Petrov, Downing; Bent, Heskey
Key Man: Marc Albrighton
Final Score: 1-2
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