Aston Villa vs Bradford City League Cup semi final preview
@Villa Park on Tuesday 22 January, 2013
By Phil Abbott
Will David Cameron be polling higher or lower than Paul Lambert in the popularity polls come Tuesday night? Tom Hanks will surely be hoping that his beloved Villa are in ‘A league of their own’, rather than ‘Cast Away’ by the mighty Bantams. Perhaps Benjamin Zephaniah will be left waxing lyrical at the much expected Villa comeback, or left penning a sonorous, somber litany of defeat. Maybe Nigel Kennedy’s boys might hit the right note or will the evening end on a cacophony of discord? Even Mervyn King might be lending a hand if his club cash in on a Wembley date, but he might just be left counting the cost instead.
If football matches are won on the strength of the celebrity lists, then Aston Villa will plough over Bradford City in the League Cup semi final second leg clash. All we’ve had on our celebrity list for sometime is a fella on the local weather and a kid with a City poster in Emmerdale. Then of course, recently, onto the scene has popped an A-lister with similar powers to the BCAFC cup machine – Dynamo Magician!
Just as Dynamo has bamboozled the world with his tricks, so Bradford City have defied all logic by reaching the semi finals of a major football competition from the depths of the 4th tier of football. What was deemed a step too far for the Bantams over two legs may yet be another rationale that deceives pundits and footy fans the world over. With a 3-1 lead, City have a genuine chance of making Dynamo the Magician look like an average kids party entertainer.
The football community is creeping closer to the edge of the sofa to catch a glimpse of what could be the greatest cup achievement in a generation, ‘neutrals’ undivided in their support for the underdog Yorkshiremen. We all love to witness a remarkable story unfolding and the 6,500 travelling City entourage will be dwarfed by the millions viewing the game across the country and around the world. What for all the footballing nouse engaged in predicting the final outcome of the game, there is no consensus on anything.
So what is it that makes the prediction of a game which throws together a Premier League team at home to a League Two side so difficult? On so many levels, there ought to be no debate about the outcome, but there are a number of key factors that, together, could just make the impossible happen:
Villa’s recent form
Confidence plays a huge part in the success of a team and Aston Villa are far from relaxed and care-free on the pitch. They have haemorrhaged goals from all angles, being particularly brittle from set-piece plays. City are strong in this aspect of the game and caused untold problems for the Villains in the first leg.
I fancy City to score on Tuesday night, and would wager that it might well come from a set piece situation. The first goal, and its timing, however, could be absolutely crucial. If City are leading at half time, it’s time to book the London hotel; if it’s all square, with City on the scoreboard, I think we are still in the box seat; but, I would fear for us if we are to be trailing at the interval, especially if we aren’t on the scoresheet. Form is temporary, and City must not give Aston Villa a sniff.
City’s cup pedigree this season
Time after time this season, Bradford City have defied all odds in brushing aside opposition they had no right to beat. That shows calibre, determination and desire, where other teams have been left licking their war wounds, once clinically dispatched. A word of warning however – the unknown factor here is that for the first time in the competition, the Bantams play the same opposition team again; there’s a chance for Villa to gain revenge and the unexpected elements of City’s game are much better known to them this time round.
Just as Villa pulled a goal back at Valley Parade, the collective sigh from those around me was shared, knowing the importance such an away goal would likely play in the final reckoning. It seemed that at 2-1 up, City fans would be leaving Valley Parade having had a great night, celebrating a famous win, but going home knowing that Villa were the firm, uncontested favourites for a Wembley final place.
However, the third and final Bantams goal in the 87th minute may just be the goal that gives City enough of a cushion to defend. What do you think?
I’m told it’s a big, wide pitch at Villa Park and that this will benefit the home team hugely. Yes, okay, their undoubted pace will cause us problems in midfield, and perhaps challenge our fitness late on too. That said, big pitches can only mean more space for the likes of Hines, Turgott and Wells to exploit with their blistering bursts.
The groundswell of City opinion is that we should not go with a defensive shape and should get at them early on with a positive and attacking line-up. I’m expecting a very similar make-up to the team from the first leg, injuries apart. It’s swings and roundabouts on this one. No wonder we can’t make a prediction with any sort of consensus!
I had the distinct misfortune to find myself at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday to watch Man City dispatch of Fulham in what was a turgid borefest of a game. Having no loyalties to either side, instead, I watched the game from a League Two perspective. It was often pretty and ornate, punctuated with moments of brilliance, including slide rule precision for the two Blues goals. But, in amongst all the pantomime, there was a lack of physicality in all areas of the field.
If big James Hanson was out there for Fulham, the Premier League Champions could have been up against it. It’s food and drink in League Two, but certainty not in the top tier. If City can find this on Tuesday night, especially in both penalty areas, there’s every chance of pulling off another huge upset.
The lap of the Gods
For those who believe, the football Gods are usually a pretty measured, unromantic lot. You only have to look at some of City’s games in between each of their giant-killing victories! The fact that fate has allowed City to reach this stage goes far beyond their usual boundaries of fantasy. My gut feeling is that, if the footballing Gods are really pulling the strings, City will finally bow out of the competition at the semi final stage. Historically, the underdogs rarely make it all the way; it’s the stuff of dreams and they rarely come true for fourth tier football clubs. I’m desperate for a City win, and anything can happen.
So, will us City fans be drowning social media outlets come Wednesday morning with strains of ‘David Cameron, Tom Hanks, Benjamin Zephaniah, Nigel Kennedy, Mervyn King; Your boys took one hell of a beating?’ or will we be shouting ‘get me out of here’ with 10 minutes left of normal time?
Who knows? Don’t, however, be relying on Dynamo magician to do the job for us! If it were possible for this kind of thing to happen, Uri Geller would not have allowed Exeter City to be sharing a place in our league…