Villa Head To Head v Blackburn (Carling Cup)
* Due to Europa League qualification. *Call it laziness or the fact I've just got off a night shift but this is just re-jigged version of last weeks Head-To-Head and as such, doesn't include statistics picked up in Blackburn's match against Manchester City.
ASTON VILLA 3-1 Blackburn Rovers
Seems a long while ago now since this was played. It was a night of much changed line-ups with both teams having an eye on tonight`s fixture. Villa started the game well and by half time seemed out of sight as Delfouneso & Cuellar had put 2-0 up, Brad Guzan had saved yet another penalty and Diouf had managed to get himself sent off for a reckless challenge on international teammate, Habib Beye. In the second half Blackburn pulled one back when the normally reliable Guzan dropped the ball in the box for Kalinic to poke home. As the final whistle neared Carew was felled in the box as he was runned AWAY from goal for a penalty to be awarded that he cheekily prodded over the line.
Manchester City 4-1 BLACKBURN ROVERS
Carlos Tevez, the player deemed not good enough for united continued his fine goal scoring run and made Blackburn Rover's his b*tch with a hattrick on top of a Michah Richard strike(Yes you read right). Morten Gamst Pedersen claimed a goal of his own to try and spare some blushes but the damage was done and Mancini pushed Sam Allerdyce closer to the exit (If rumours are to be believed)
Martin O`Neill should recall all his stars back for this hugely important semi-final barring the obvious omission of Friedel as Guzan keeps his place for the cup competitions. James Milner will have overcome a bruised foot to reclaim his central position after being played out wide in the loss against Liverpool - you watch him cover every blade of grass. The called off games has actually proved usual for one thing as he would have missed this one last week.
Defence: L. Younng, Dunne, Cuellar, Warnock
Midfield: A. Young, Petrov, Milner, Downing
Up Front: Agbonlahor, Heskey
Blackburn will likely play with David Dunn behind the two strikers and dropping back into the midfield so if ever there is a time for Petrov to stand up and be counted, then this is it.
Defence: Chimbonda, Nelsen, Samba, Givet
Midfield: Emerton, Dunn, Pedersen, N`Zonzi
Up Front: Di Santo, McCarthy
Diouf (3 games)
Stephen Warnock: Could have been a number of players but I`ll plump for Warnock again facing his old club. Did well on against Blackburn in the FA Cup and linked with Downing tremendously to get forward in support.
Brett Emerton: One of Blackburn`s best players returns from a groin problem to claim a starting line position and will be one of their key threats.
The last time Aston Villa were in a semi final was in this very competition against this very manager as we were beaten by Sam Allerdyce`s Bolton 5-4 on aggregate in 2004, we all know the result of our last final in 1996 when be beat Leeds United 3-0.
Blackburn however won their only ever final of this competition in 2002 but in all the years these League founding members have been in existence, they`ve never played each other in this competition.
Very little was learned from Saturday`s clash between these two teams as both managers rung the changes. The only thing that could be said of the game is that Villa have a better squad but that won`t count for much tonight.
Blackburn still maintain their 10 game winless streak and the 3 goals conceded on Saturday now mean that they have conceded 10 goals in their last 5 games. In contrast, Villa have won 6 of their last 8 games with the two losses coming against top four opposition in Liverpool & Fabregas whilst scoring 14 goals and keeping 4 clean sheets in the process.
I could reel off records and statistics all day but it all counts for diddlysquat in a semi final.
The only thing that matters tonight is the hunger of the players and who wants it more.
I was a bit more hesitant when predicting this result last time around, but now? I'm in full Cup fever and can only see a drubbing. Blackburn haven't been playing too well of late and with all the behind the scenes nonesense going on at Ewood Park, then Villa are all set to put themselves in the final tonight making the return leg a mere formality.
Prediction… Blackburn Rovers 0-3 Aston Villa