After once again seeing off Blackburn Rovers in the third round of the League Cup, Aston Villa welcome Championship side Burnley to Villa Park on Wednesday. Villa destroyed Burnley 5-2 when they came to visit last year--a match only rivaled by Bolton's visit, in which we won 5-1. My, how times have changed.
It makes me nervous to see how overconfident supporters are over this tie. Aston Villa are missing key players, including Stiliyan Petrov, Luke Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor. The team still hasn't settled down and adjusted following the turmoil at the start of the season. The Villa are unable to score--254 minutes and counting!--and are unable to win--they have just one point from three games. So why the assumption? Is it simply because Villa are playing a Championship side at home?
Don't take Burnley lightly. The Clarets had a taste of the Premier League last season and are desperate to come back. Their 0-4 defeat to Reading at the weekend was the first time they'd lost at home this season. They're seventh in the league, sitting just below the playoff promotion spots, and beat Bolton Wanderers in the third round to advance.
Burnley are probably going to have to make a decision: chase the playoff places, or try to advance through the cup. They've got three away matches coming up, first to Aston Villa, and then to QPR and Norwich, who sit first and fourth respectively. The League Cup won't help them stay up. Beating QPR and Norwich will. So how will they choose? Fortunately for them, they've got no real injury woes, and defender Clarke Carlisle is back from his three match ban. He'll replace Leon Cort, who sits out following a two-yellow sending off in the Reading match. However, manager Brian Laws has hinted at changing the lineup after the team's dismal performance on Saturday.
As for Villa, in case you didn't know, they have a fairly significant game coming up on Sunday. With injuries already mounting, balancing cup advancement with the need to beat Birmingham City becomes a delicate task. Considering the lower-level opposition, the kids will likely see some time. I'd guess we'll see Brad Guzan in goal. Goodness knows Aaron will want Eric Lichaj to get the shout. Ciaran Clark, Barry Bannan and Nathan Delfouneso will almost certainly get some minutes. And, of course, one of Emile Heskey and John Carew will be guiding the attack force. Other than that, write everyone's name on a piece of paper and toss it in the air, because your guess is as good as mine.