Leading up to a home derby game with Wolves, the last thing Villa needed was a defensive crisis to add to the fact that this game is a real relegation battle. Houllier has been boosted by the return of Carlos Cuellar but in equal measure, rocked by the likelihood that he will be without Luke Young through a calf injury having played just one game on his return from knee injury. Disciplinary issues are the main reason for Villa’s lack of defensive reinforcements with Clark banned for the next two games having picked up 10 bookings this season. However, the main issue surrounding the club in the past week regards a supposedly drunken disagreement involving usual centre-back pairing James Collins and Richard Dunne and some of the club’s staff. Dunne would definitely have missed out either way as he recovers from a dislocated shoulder but Collins was expected to return for this weekend’s clash.
I imagine that the Welshman is fit to play after a prolonged break but whether he plays or not is another matter entirely as both players are current facing internal disciplinary hearings. That leaves Walker, Cuellar and Baker all pretty much shoe-ins to start but alongside who? Could there be a dramatic return to the fold for Habib Beye or Stephen Warnock who didn’t feature for the reserves in midweek having captained the young side the week before. The left backs inclusion would mean that Baker would revert to his preferred centre back position alongside Cuellar.
Other possibilities include centre midfielders Fabian Delph or Nigel Reo-Coker filling in at full-back. Delph has deputised at left back already this season, while Reo-Coker grew unhappy under O’Neill after being repeatedly deployed as a right back. Other than that you are looking at Houllier possibly bringing in another youngster with the likes of Ellis Deeney being like-for-like replacements at left-back. I would like to think that Houllier would be able to swallow a little pride and play Collins, if fit, though who really knows just how offensive his offence in last week’s scuffle were? Tricky one. Who’d be in your back line?
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