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Rupert Wyman 20th Feb 2010 - 17:23

A draw at Villa Park

Martin O'Neill has one of the most important weeks of his career as Aston Villa manager, starting on Sunday. It begins with the visit of Burnley and culminates with a Carling Cup final against Manchester United seven days later.

During the week, there is an FA Cup replay to win at home to Crystal Palace, in order to reach another final at Wembley in May.

Aston Villa are unbeaten in 2010, but in their last five Premier League games, four of them have been draws. They were last defeated in December, when a late 93rd minute Torres winner for Liverpool cost them a point.

Villa played the reverse fixture at Turf Moor in November, Caldwell scored in the ninth minute to give Burnley the lead but Heskey grabbed a very late equaliser with four minutes remaining.

Burnley continually have cold feet away from home, and it looks like they may go the whole season without a Premier League away win.  From their thirteen away games, they have only taken one point and conceded thirty eight goals, more than any other team in the league.

The punters' concern is the possible team that O'Neill may play on Sunday. Villa are drifting away from fourth position in the league and a potential Champions league spot after their indifferent form.

The Villa players want to go further in the FA Cup and earn some silverware next weekend, so the possibility of a weakened eleven starting tomorrow is realistic if the primary focus is on silverware.

O'Neill has already stated to the press, 'Of course it is a huge week for us and I will be looking at things from a match-to-match basis to see how the players are, but they all want to play and we want to win all three games'.

O'Neill has a number of players that are carrying injuries, Petrov, Warnock and Agbonlahor are all playing with some discomfort and may not start if he believes it will affect his team sheet next week.  Delfouneso, Delph and Sidwell could all be given starts this Sunday.

Harewood has a fractured metatarsal and Reo-Coker has a long term ankle injury, they are both making a good recovery but will not be available until the close season.

Burnley will arrive at Villa Park knowing that they have a fantastic opportunity to at least pick up a 0-0 draw.

However, they appear clueless when playing away from home, their defence regularly goes missing and they struggle to find the opposition's net.

They have not scored in their last six away games and there has only been one occasion when they have not conceded more than two goals away from home in the league this season.

Aston Villa have kept eight clean sheets in their last eleven Premier league games, I would have a small stake on the 0-0 draw at 11/1.

Villa can go for the win, but they will not be going in hard on fifty/fifties, because the players will want to avoid injuries pre-cup final.

Burnley, also have to get at least another point on the road before the end of the season and Sunday is their perfect opportunity.

I cannot see Burnley scoring but they will spend most of the game defending deep, earning their draw.

I would bet on a market that I have never had an interest in previously, I would have a flutter on Burnley having most booking points at 7/10 because Aston Villa will back out of challenges and are not a particularly dirty side.



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