Paul Lambert can take Aston Villa to its sixth League Cup win. Image courtesy of avfc.co.uk
Six years ago, current Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert was in the same position as current Bradford City boss Phil Parkinson. He had led fourth-tier Wycombe Wanderers on a magical League Cup run, which included victories over Premier League sides Fulham and Charlton Athletic. Then in the semi-final against Chelsea, Wycombe surprisingly held the EPL high-flyer to a 1-1 draw at home, but was swamped 4-0 at Stamford Bridge.
Lambert’s current team faces, arguably, just as great a task as his Wanderers outfit did back then. Villa enters the second leg of its semi down 3-1 after the Bantams' shock victory a fortnight back. History is somewhat in the Birmingham side’s favour, though. Just once before has a team fought back from two goals down after the first semi-final leg to reach the final, and that was when the Villans came back to defeat second-tier Tranmere Rovers 3-1 at Villa Park, before closing the tie out on penalties. Prior to the defeat at Valley Parade, they had won all 27 matches in the League Cup against fourth-tier teams.
Bradford is hardly in sparkling form at the moment, having taken just one point from its four League Two fixtures since Boxing Day. The postponement of last weekend’s clash with Port Vale should mean Parkinson’s team is fresh for Wednesday morning’s (AEDT) battle, while Villa fought out a 2-2 derby draw with close rival West Bromwich Albion. The Bantams will need to look after things at the defensive end, given that Villa already has an away goal in its keeping, but they have kept a clean sheet in just two of their last League Cup ties. At least if the teams go to penalties, Bradford will back itself having won an English record nine straight shootouts.
Aston Villa’s scored from the first leg, Andreas Weiman, returns to the team after illness, but defender Nathan Baker will miss the game due to a hamstring injury. ‘Keeper Shay Given (hamstring) and midfielder Fabian Delph (ankle) will undergo fitness tests before taking the field. Bradford could hand a debut to new signing Michael Nelson, who came over from Scottish Premier League side Kilmarnock, while on-loan Newcastle defender Curtis Good should also be available.
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