Brad Friedel makes a triumphant return to Ewood Park this weekend, his home for many a year. Now replaced with the wobbly Paul Robinson, Friedel has clearly gone onto bigger and better things as he plays backstop to the runaway freight train that is Villa`s charge towards the top of the EPL.
Blackburn meanwhile are unbeaten since appointing former Bolton and briefly-Newcastle manager Big Sam Allardyce.
It`s Villa, Blackburn, my snowman was shocking, Preview!
It`s not Arsene this time, who said this though?
“They are a top team, but at the moment their record tells you that they are not playing as well as they did last year.”
I`ll give you a clue; he`s just as much of a clown!
Villa news now and as always, we begin with the man who`s mobile phone is always out of range, Martin O`Neill.
“I accept Blackburn are on a good run at the moment – despite the fact they are in a bottom three.
“They have been a good run – with a change of management – and things are happening for them.
“It will be a tough game for us but again, we’ll just go with it and play in the manner we have been doing.
“It is up to us – it always is – and I think we are capable of winning the game.”
Meanwhile, a man who has as much hair as Vital Villa site editor Jonathan Fear has well hair, Brad Friedel believes that the guys in front of him on the bitterly cold (if today is anything to go by) Ewood Park pitch will have to look out for Roque Santa Cruz, Blackburn`s best pound-for-pound whinger…I mean striker. Mr RSC has been talking of his determination to keep Blackburn in the Premier League. I guess his “I`m happy to be at such an exciting project as Manchester City” speech has been quickly stuffed down the back of the sofa for fear of him looking as silly as Robinho did!
Anyway, Friedel on Santa on avfc.co.uk:
“I was with him every day in training and he’s a very hard worker who knows where the goal is.
“Pound for pound, I reckon he is Blackburn’s best signing for quite some time. They got him for around £3m and that was a real bargain.
“He’s a tremendous player and a great guy as well. From day one, when he went into Blackburn’s changing room, he was friendly with everybody.”
Premier League forgotten man following his Newcastle United departure Sam Allardyce isn`t daft, and he recognises that Martin O`Neill`s Villa side poses a major threat. Speaking to the official Blackburn Rovers site, Allardyce said:
“Villa’s form, especially away from home, has been fantastic and they are genuine contenders for a Champions League spot.
“The way they play suits away performances due to the pace they have up front, with the likes of Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor.
“But we are in good form too and keen to maintain our fine unbeaten run.”
Allardyce also believes that El-Hadj Diouf will prove to be a big hit at Blackburn, knowing full well what he can do from his Bolton days:
“The fans will love him here if he performs to his best and delivers the talent he has got. In my time at Bolton we finished 6th, 8th, 7th and that is the size of the player he was playing for Bolton when I was with him.
“I am banking on the fact I can get him to deliver that for me and Blackburn. The talent he has got has always been there for all to see.
“At this stage of his life, in the prime of his career, the talent he has got I hope will be a real, real bargain.”
Blackburn Rovers Team News:
It is reported that Diouf will get a start under his old/new boss as big Sam undoubtedly returns his starting 11 to non-FA Cup standards. South African forward Benni McCarthy may just pop up.
Keith Andrews, Morten Gamst Pedersen, Chris Samba and Vince Grella are all being linked to a return having had a mid-week rest. Bret Emerton is one long-term casualty.
Player to watch: Roque Santa Cruz
In out, in out no Sheikh to get you out! Santa Cruz returns to the Rovers line-up and according to Friedel, is a danger man. Curtis, you have your mission!
Aston Villa Team News:
It`s likely to be business as normal as Martin O`Neill also goes back to a league squad rather than the reservists. John Carew is likely to lose his place to the returning Emile Heskey, as reports suggested that the man bigger than me, and you, looked tired after about 10 minutes (nothing new is it?)
My fellow ginger Steve Sidwell could keep his place after scoring swiftly once again. Stiliyan Petrov is available again after serving his one-match ban. With a full-strength side expect Friedel, Gabby, Barry and Jimmy (sounds like a bizarre Australian folk band) to pop up on the pitch again!
Player to watch: Stiliyan Petrov
I wasn`t sure who to give it to, so I plumped with the easy option of the returning Petrov, who has had a fantastic season to-date.
If the latest Cadbury`s TV advert annoys the hell out of you, you won`t like ‘Don`t Stop the Rock` by Freestyle.
I met Sam Allardyce when he was jobless; he was carrying a designer suit carrier. He seemed nice enough.
The Man City team weren`t, even before the Arab buy-out, arrogant sods.
Preview fans will be glad to know I have recovered from the sheer boredom of writing about Doncaster, so here we go with some Blackburn based facts!
Blackburn was once visited by none other than Ghandi (as in Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, not some dodgy Sam Allardyce signing) whilst he was boycotting British textiles. He made such an impression, there`s a picture of him at Blackburn Railway Station.
According to the Blackburn page of Wikipedia, the railway station has two railway lines. One run`s North-South, the other, East-West. Clever.
Platform 3 is a bay platform, used for early-morning services to Manchester Victoria.
So don`t go to Platform 4.
Meanwhile, Blackburn Rovers` home ground Ewood Park has been the home of the towns team since 1882. There were plans to renovate the stadium to take the capacity up to 40,000. These plans have been shelved, on account that Rovers` haven`t had that many fans since they won the Premier League.
Blackburn won the Premier League in the 1994/95 season. They haven`t been back since.
It`s Mr Howard Webb who comes from Yorkshire. I`m not going to make jokes about him, as it appears his other occupation is as a policeman!
Mr Webb likes his cards, 91 yellow and 5 red cards in just 26 matches.
It`s also the referee`s first Villa game of the season!
3-1 Villa and Salifou won’t score.
CSKA Moscow roll into Birmingham no doubt looking for some warm weather. Sorry chapskis! Wednesday 18th February for this one, 7pm kick off!
Thanks for reading everyone!