Aston Villa fans have to be realistic. If the Villa lost to Sheffield United, it's almost certain Houllier will go. If Villa lose to the Blades and fail to win against Birmingham City, it's all over. As a supporter of the Houllier revolution, I want him to stick around. So up the Villa! Let's make it to the fourth round proper.
In case you weren't aware, the FA Cup's been going on since mid-August, when the Extra Preliminary Round began. Eight rounds later and the Premier League clubs have finally entered the mix. Over the next four days, 64 teams will play 32 matches, and while most of us probably only care if Aston Villa win, it's pretty fun to cheer on clubs such as Dover Athletic and York City (a Conference club with the unfortunate draw of Bolton Wanderers).
But we're here about Villa. And as for team selection, well, your guess is probably as good as mine. On one hand, Sheffield United sit just a point above the Championship drop zone, so one would think that Aston Villa could play a few of their youngsters. On the other hand, the Villa sit within the relegation zone and are facing one of those must-win matches, so who knows, we might be trotting out a team of experienced veterans.
While only Luke Young and Andreas Weimann remain on the official injury list, the team might not want to risk Gabriel Agbonlahor, who limped off against Chelsea but went the entire ninety against Sunderland. Maybe some minutes will be handed to (gasp) John Carew, as another way of appeasing the dressing room? But Emile Heskey's been a rock in cup competitions, so don't discount him. Look for a mix of youth and experience. Perhaps Houllier will use both Richard Dunne and Ciaran Clark, Stiliyan Petrov and Barry Bannan. One can hope. Or one can hope if one is sitting around typing while wearing a Bannan kit, wondering if she cursed the wee Scot into oblivion.
Whatever happens tomorrow, pay attention to the way Villa set up against the Blades. Houllier did watch their 2-2 draw against Doncaster Rovers. If his methods are correct and it's yet another bit of bad luck that goes against the Villa, he should be given the benefit of the doubt. Despite Jose Mourinho's belief that he is Harry Potter, managers are not magical.