When Aston Villa drew West Bromwich Albion in the FA Cup quarter-final a couple of weeks ago, quite a few people took to Twitter asking which match they'd rather see Villa win.
For me? It was easy.
What does one play football for? To merely survive? Or to take opportunity of a chance to win silverware?
I'll take the latter every damn time.
It's been 19 years since Villa won silverware and 58 since our beloved club last one this great trophy. They're three wins away and go for the first leg of that tomorrow evening at Villa Park.
It is, admittedly, tough to do a preview for this match. The two teams met at the same ground just three days ago and by this point, we're probably all familiar with the matchup between these two sides.
But that doesn't mean there aren't storylines to examine and things that could change between the contests.
Firstly — and probably most importantly — I'd be shocked if the Tesco bags put in another half-hearted performance like they did Tuesday. They looked squarely like a team complacent with their league position and I wouldn't expect that to be the case again.
Villa looked fantastic Tuesday. Despite all of our reservations with him in the XI, Gabby Agbonlahor had his best game in ages. He had a step on Joleon Lescott all day long and really could've had a brace if not fouled in the box by Ben Foster. (But I digress… we won the damn match.)
If we're looking towards things to look for, I'd look at what Tony Pulis is going to put out there in his side come tomorrow. If he actually puts together a team that utilizes his wide areas well, the Baggies stand a good chance to send their 6,500 fans home happy — Villa will be starting Matt Lowton and … well, someone at the fullback slots and if Tuesday is any indication, wingers aren't necessarily in Tim Sherwood's master plan for Aston Villa.
Before we go any further, I just want to mention that our first goal Tuesday is my favorite goal of the season. Granted, there aren't many to choose from, but it was a vintage Villa goal and one that showed a commitment to playing to the team's strength. Brad Guzan played a long ball for Christian Benteke which, of course, the Belgian won. From there, Agbonlahor used his pace to get behind the defense and not surprisingly, Benteke showed his first-class playmaking abilities to get Gabby the ball where he needed it. A couple of seconds later, we're ahead.
It was, in a weird way, refreshing to see us play so direct at times. In general, you have to play a style that suits the personnel that you have. While passing the ball around is pretty and all, this Villa side wasn't going to ever really be built for it. We're equipped with a great target man and a full complement of quick, short forwards and wingers that can assist him in attack. Being direct to Benteke and letting him create chances for guys like Gabby, Andi Weimann, Scott Sinclair, Jack Grealish, etc., might be Villa's best way forward.
Benteke looked up for the game too and that was extremely important for Sherwood's Lions on Tuesday. Another similar performance would be nice tonight.
Unfortunately, Alan Hutton didn't drive his studs straight into Craig Gardner's "groin." Maybe someone else will pick up that tab this year. Ciaran Clark could really cement his Supporters' Player of the Year status with such an action.
All things considered though, this is a massive opportunity for this football club. Spirits are high, a sell-out is expected at Villa Park, and we're a win from Wembley without having left home. (Odds of four consecutive home draws? 1-in-16. #stats)
I'd expect the Baggies to be better than they were Tuesday and I'd expect the inbreds to be even more obsessed than they typically are.
But at the end of the day? This match is Villa's to lose. And Sherwood's men aren't going to let it happen.
Up the Villa.