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Stuart Dalgleish 13th Jan 2010 - 15:31

Villa to put one foot in the final

Blackburn Rovers take on Aston Villa in the semi-final first leg of the Carling Cup.

The sides played just earlier this month in the FA Cup, when both sides made several changes to their regular starting XI but it still made for a good, open contest.

Villa won the match 3-1, and a couple of players in particular who have been short of minutes will now be hopeful of staking a claim for more regular first team football - youngsters Fabian Delph and Nathan Delfouneso both had starring roles, with the latter getting the ball rolling with the first of the game.

Both have had to bide their time thanks to the performances of some of Villa's other attacking talent, Delfouneso has found himself behind Emile Heskey, John Carew and Gabby Agbonlahor but when given the chance in cup games he's generally performed well and managed to get a few goals to boot.

Former Leeds man Delph was also impressive in the weekend win, demonstrating his close control and range of passing, sadly he too is behind a wealth of midfield talent for Villa with the likes of James Milner now preferred for an attacking midfield role, and it's likely that neither of these two England Youth stars will be in the starting line-up at Ewood Park.

What it does mean for Martin O'Neill though is that he now has the squad to compete on more than one front, which was brutally exposed in last season's close to the campaign when several players tired and Villa missed out on a place in the Champions League qualification, when it looked almost a certainty at the turn of the year.

It could all mean bad news for Blackburn, as Villa have a good record over them at the best of times, and with many of their big guns returning for this match they should have more than enough quality to make sure they're in a good position come the 2nd leg at Villa Park next week.

The hosts did the win the last meeting here in the league earlier this season, but it was their only victory over Villa in eight league and cup meetings, they're 2/1 to repeat that success - the same scoreline of 2-1 is a 17/2 chance. O'Neill wouldn't mind taking back a draw with him for the 2nd leg and that's priced at 11/5, while the Villans are 7/5 shots to win the game and with it put themselves in with a great chance of their first final in a decade (when they competed in the last FA Cup final at the old Wembley, losing to Chelsea).

It looks the bet to me, and I'd also be looking at Villa/Villa in the double result market at odds of 11/4.

Scoring goals is still a concern for Sam Allardyce's side, with their top scorer David Dunn only managing six so far, he got the winner from the spot in the league fixture though and could be a good shout at 8/1 to get the first of the game or 11/4 just to bag one at any time during the 90 minutes.

Villa have really been spreading the goals about this season, with seven players managing to score two or more goals, to be fair it's the same amount of players as Blackburn, but they do offer more of a genuine threat upfront.

Agbonlahor (5/1 for the first, 5/4 to score at anytime) is the main threat with nine goals so far this term, but Milner is the one that interests me at odds of 10/1 (10/3 anytime), he's got five to his name this season and has really improved his game over the last few years, he could be a vital part of England's World Cup squad due to his brilliant versatility.

This game has the makings of a great cup tie, make sure you're with us when the action un-folds as you can bet In-Play on a range of markets.

 
 
 

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