Date: 26th January 2008 at 10:07am
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It`s F.A. Cup weekend and all the excitement is there for the upsets and major talking points. Rovers travel to Villa Park to play Aston Villa in one of the rounds all Premiership? wait, oh that`s right it is a Premiership game as both clubs were knocked out of the cup three weeks ago.

Still it represents a very important fixture in the race for Europe. Villa are having a tremendous season whereas Rovers are keeping in touch with the leaders of the UEFA race; just!

A lot of the talk is about Rovers looking for revenge and you can understand why. Villa have beaten Mark Hughes` men three times in a row now and another victory will see a double Villa double against the blue and white halves.

The spanking that was dished out at Ewood Park in November was an unfair reflection of a game that could have been so different had a linesman made the correct decision. Benni McCarthy opened the scoring that with a wonderful curling attempt but it was ruled out for a poor offside decision.

Villa then went on and won handsomely and Rovers began to languish a little in the league. McCarthy has lost his touch all together but it could all have been so different.

Now though, with Rovers performing better away there is a distinct chance that the bad run against Villa could change, however, it will take a grand effort.

Vital Quotes:

Villa manager Martin O’Neill:
Gareth Barry’s got to be really sore to miss a game, you know what he’s like.

‘The recovery period was good to begin with and then it stayed kind of the same for a number of days.

‘We’ll see how he gets on. Obviously we’d love to have him back for Saturday if at all possible.


Rovers boss Mark Hughes:
Fourth spot has been a closed shop in recent years, but not this season.

‘We’re still in there battling away, and we’ve got two huge games coming up against teams that are in and around us.

‘We need to take points off them if we’re going to finish above them come the end of the season.

Aston Villa Team News:

Villa have considerable doubts about whether or not their talismanic leader, Gareth Barry, will be fit in time. There are also concerns surrounding the situation with Olof Mellberg. He is due to sign a pre-contract with Juventus and O`Neil will check on his frame-of-mind before deciding whether or not to select him.

Villa from: Carson, Taylor, Sorensen, Mellberg, Laursen, Davies, Knight, Cahill, Bouma, Petrov, Reo-Coker, Barry, Gardner, Young, Berger, Agbonlahor, Carew, Maloney, Moore.

Player to watch: Ashley Young

He terrorised Rovers last time out so will need to be watched. It may even require us defending deep because of his pace.

Blackburn Rovers Team News:

Ryan Nelsen has been told to rest this week so his place in the team will go to Zurab Khizanishvili who has this week penned a new three year contract with Rovers.

Jason Roberts is hoping to keep his place but McCarthy could get a look in.

Rovers from: Friedel, Ooijer, Samba, Khizanishvili, Warnock, Emerton, Bentley, Pedersen, Dunn, Reid, Tugay, McCarthy, Santa Cruz, Roberts, Berner, Derbyshire, Gallagher, Olsson, Rigters, Treacy, Brown.

Player to watch: David Bentley

He has been tremendous this season and it is little wonder so many clubs are interested in him. If he can put in another belter Rovers stand a good chance of coming away from the game with something.

Match Facts & Stats

Villa have only conceded two goals in their last six home Premier League games against Blackburn. They were scored by Garry Flitcroft and Jon Stead in Rovers’ 0-2 victory on 20 March 2003; the only occasion Villa dropped points in the six games.

Ref Watch:

Howard Webb takes charge of another Rovers v Villa battle.

Match Prediction:

This could be a tight game, but I guess everyone would have expected the same earlier in the season. However, that everything went for Villa and has done in recent games between the two sides. However, could this be the day that Rovers` fortunes improve against Villa? It`s hard to see it happening such is the high level of performance O`Neil has his troops performing at. The best Rovers can hope for therefore is a draw and probably something to the tune of 2-2.

Next Fixtures:

Everton up next at Ewood.