Things haven't been going so great in the Premier League for Aston Villa this season. But they're undefeated in the Capital One Cup, so there's that. Tuesday's match against Birmingham City comes at a crucial time for the claret and blue - a win would not only put us in the next round of the Cup, but could serve as a huge boost to both the club and the fanbase, hopefully kick starting some good form. Ahead of the first Second City derby in four years, we chatted with blogger Daniel from Birmingham City site Often Partisan.
It's been a good start for the Blues this season, sitting comfortably in 7th place with 11 points, and lost their first match last week against Nottingham Forest. How has this first part of the season lined up with expectations prior to the campaign?
OP: So far, things have been pretty decent. Our form over the last forty or so games is that of a playoff contender and while I think we'll have done well to maintain that until next May I think the foundations are being laid for a much better long term future.
Is Gary Rowett the man to take Birmingham back up to the Premier League?
OP: Honestly, he is.
I can remember the despondency under Lee Clark, the feeling that every game was another chore - and then after he went there was the 8-0 humiliation to Bournemouth; it was just painful. Anyone would have been better at that point. Rowett wasn't merely just better though - he got the team organised, he got players playing proper football and he got fans believing.
From what I gather, Birmingham weren't extremely busy in the transfer window - but there was an emphasis of keeping number of key players rather than bringing new faces in. Were fans happy with the business done over the summer?
OP: To be honest, it's difficult for me to speak "on behalf of the fans", I'm just one guy you know? From what I saw I think some people wanted Blues to splash out a bit more cash and I think there was a touch of worry over the protracted length of time it seemed to take to bring players in.
On the other hand, we've nailed down some of our more important players and we look like we've made a couple of decent acquisitions in Kieftenbeld, Toral and Maghoma.
Give us a few players who have been particularly impressive so far, who Villa may need to worry about come Tuesday.
OP: Naming players like Clayton Donaldson, or Demarai Gray would be the easy way out- players who have been courted by other teams and who have been lynchpins of our success. However, Blues' success isn't really about individual talent - we've been playing as a team, a well drilled and well organised team which can really hurt teams on the counter.
Former Villa defender Shane Lowry has signed for the Blues after a trial this preseason. Thoughts on how Lowry's progressing, and any chance we see him against his former club?
OP: The honest truth is I doubt he'll start a game until an injury crisis bites. I can't really comment on how Lowry has played because I've not seen him - I can't do the thing writing him off because he's played for poor teams in the past; I need to see him with my own eyes.
He's not likely to be anything more than cover really.
It seems as though Rowett heavily favors a 4-2-3-1 formation. Can we expect the same at Villa Park, or do you think there may be some tactical adjustments?
OP: Exceptional circumstances aside, we'll play 4-2-3-1. It's what we know, it's what we play best at and I can't see things changing because of this game. Our players are brought in with the formation in mind and it's only when we're either chasing a game or shutting up shop the formation really gets altered.
Villa however will need to do their homework; although we do play the same sort of formation the player roles can change within it; Rowett does tweak things and he will set up certain players to do certain jobs.
If you could poach one player from the Villa squad, who would it be?
OP: If I'm brutally honest, I don't know. There seems to be a lot of new faces in B6 and I don't know much about them so I couldn't tell you. I'd have taken Benteke last year - I think he has real class and I'm not massively surprised he took a step upwards going to Liverpool.
Looking through the squad the only name that really scares me is Adama Traore cos I know he's lightning quick - I think he could be a very good acquisition but other than I am really struggling.
It's been 4 years since the last Second City derby (which ended 1-1). How are you feeling about the return of the heated rivalry?
OP: Living in Poland, it's a bit more difficult for me personally to be as excited as I would be back in Birmingham. I was happy we drew you out of the hat and I think it'll be a good game; however I don't like some of the scaremongering that has been put about by local media and I think the Villa bottled it with the ticket allocation too.
Aside from that - well, if we're true to ourselves this is what we live for; the chance for bragging rights for the next few weeks, months and possibly years. People want to deny it's their cup final - people want to say it's just another game but I know that's not true. I remember how wildly I celebrated that Zigic dink... I think you'd be lying as a Villa fan if you said that wasn't heartbreaking.
Our thanks to Daniel for answering our questions! Check out Often Partisan to read up ahead of the Second City derby!