ASTON VILLA 5-2 Burnley
Villa finally managed to achieve what they’ve threatened all season by killing off one of the lesser teams. And even then they had to do it the hard way. Fletcher gave Burnley a shock 1-0 lead just 10 minutes after kick off as Villa struggled to get out of first gear. Ashley Young, of all players, came to rescue. His short corner with James Milner followed by a swift one-two gave the “out of sorts” winger chance to lash in a shot from the corner of the penalty box that went straight through a flurry of legs to level matters going into half time. Then in 12 crazy second half minutes, everything about Villa just clicked. Stewart Downing got his first two Premier League goals for Villa in as many minutes followed by Emile Heskey (yes you read right) and Gabby wrapping things up before Burnley’s Patterson could add a second in stoppage just to add a bit of respectability to the score line.
CRYSTAL PALACE 0-1 Coventry City
The Eagles failed to find a win for the fourth game on the trot when they succumbed to a peach of a goal from Coventry’s Bell. Neil Warnock was quite right to point out that they didn’t play too badly and perhaps didn’t deserve to lose the match as Ambrose twice went close but were helpless to stop substitute, Bell’s 85th minute winner.
I wrongly predicted that Guzan would start in last week’s clash with Palace but was shocked to discover that it was in fact big Brad taking his place for his first cup game of the season. But with the Carling Cup final now just days away he really has to have the shot to show that he’s put the, less than perfect shall we say, performance against Blackburn in the 2nd leg semi final and stake his claim for a final starting slot.
Petrov is struggling with a virus on top of his ankle problem and should really be rested but will MON rest his captain and call in the more youthful Fabian Delph?
Defence: Warnock, Collins, Cuellar, L. Young
Midfield: Downing, Delph, Milner, A. Young
Up Front: Delfounseo, Carew
I couldn’t begin to guess the starting line up for most Championship team and Crystal Palace are no different so here’s the starting line up they fielded at their place.
Defence: Clyne, Hill, Davis, Butterfield
Midfield: Ertl, Derry, Ambrose, Danns
Up Front: Carle, Lee
Suspensions & Unavailable Players
Hills (Cup Tied)
Stern John (Cup Tied)
Brad Guzan: Has to be really. His last chance to show Marin O’Neill just why he should be played in the final and I can’t see the young American passing it up. Should the match go to penalties then there’s absolutely only going to be one winner.
Darren Ambrose: It was this man’s brilliant free kick that left Brad Friedel slightly embarrassed and gave Palace the lead for the second time of the day. Always looked a threat and if he can reproduce the same performance then will prove to be a handful again in this replay.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Assistant Referee: Adam Watts & Martin Yerby
Fourth Official: Carl Boyeson
Following the 2-2 draw at Selhurst Park, Palace have gone on to lose their next two games leaving them in the relegation zone of the Championship, whilst Villa went on to come from a goal down to hammer 5 past Burnley and leave them very much in the hunt for the fourth Champions League position.
To be fair, that shows the stark contrast of fortunes that these two clubs find themselves in and with administration, whispers of manager departures and a four game winless streak, Palace find themselves coming up against a Villa team in buoyant mood with their Carling Cup final just around the corner.
The cash incentive for Palace to progress remains but there shouldn’t be any way past this Villa side and I’ll be willing to back that up with…
Prediction… Aston Villa 4-1 Crystal Palace