Its Second-City-Derby time again, as the mighty AVFC Claret & Blues take on a Birmingham City club that has had it’s name dragged through the mud lately.
The blues are trying their hardest to avoid relegation this season, and once again it could be Aston Villa that set their closest rivals on their merry way back down to the Championship.
Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Elvis, Fish and much more in this weeks Vital Villa Preview.
Potentially “want away” captain Gareth Barry believes that Sunday’s match will be more than simply getting one over the old enemy, but that both clubs are fighting for much more important reasons.
Speaking to avfc.co.uk, the man keeping Reo-Coker’s armband warm said:
“’I’ve got a couple of good friends who are Birmingham supporters and there’s always a bit of banter close to the games. So I’ll take a bit of stick if we’re on the wrong end of the result tomorrow.
“Any sort of defeat hurts and that’s how it should be, but obviously a derby defeat hurts just a little bit more.
“There’s so much more at stake in any derby, but especially this time. This is the latest we’ve played a derby and when you come to the end of the season it’s the business end when there’s so much at stake.
“We’re going for different things to Birmingham. They’re fighting relegation and we’ve still got a good chance of playing UEFA Cup football next season.”
Meanwhile, Curtis Davies turns Claret & Blue cheerleader on Sunday as he sits out yet another Birmingham derby. The former Albion defender, set to join Villa on a permanent deal in the summer believes that victory over the Blues will help the Villans push on towards a European tour:
“I’ll be cheering the boys on. It’s a massive game and obviously I’d sooner be playing, but it’s about the team and the club, not me.
“We want to be in Europe next season and the recent results have put us right back in the frame. I almost feel like a fan at the moment, going along to games to support the team.
“Blues are fighting for their lives and you’re always playing for pride – for you and the supporters – in derbies. So we have to go into this game with the right attitude.”
Meanwhile, there’s something fishy going on at St.Andrews (and I don’t mean financial oddities.)
Striker Mikael Forssell won’t be dining on his favourite food this weekend, as the chef at his favourite Japanese restaurant is a Villa fan! The sushi lover told the Sun:
“The chef at the sushi place is a Villa fan — I don’t think he’s going to poison me but I might not go this week.”
“Villa are playing well at the moment but derby games can go any way.”
What a load of cod!
Turning our attention to the manager, just for the halibut, former Rangers boss Alex McCleish is no stranger to big derbies, just like his opposite number in former Celtic gaffer, O’Neill:
“There is great passion between the players and the fans on derby day. They are never prettiest games to watch but certainly the will to win is evident in both teams.
“Any derby that you get a victory in is pretty special.”
McCleish also hinted that there may be a recall for one of the few Birmingham City players I would happily see arrive at Villa Park this season, Mauro Zarate.
“Mauro is in the frame to start and we’re thinking about it,”
“We know that he’s got skill but he’s shown great appetite and great heart and I think you can say that about the Argentineans.”
“They are quite a tough race. I’ve been very impressed by his commitment and I know he wouldn’t be phased on Sunday.”
Weren’t quite so tough in the Falklands though, were they!
AVFC Claret & Blues Team News:
Craig Gardner has returned to first team training to hand Martin O’Neill a pre-derby day boost. The battling midfielder being exactly what we may need later on in the match as I would not expect him to replace Stiliyan Petrov after his sublime performance against woeful Derby County.
Expect John Carew to be fit for at least 50 minutes.
Other than that, there’s no new injury worries, and after his comments regarding the disappearment (my new made up word) of Shaun Maloney, the wee man may just return to the bench for this one.
Player to watch: Gareth Barry
Gareth needs to show us he wants to stay and he means everything that has come out in the press in the lead-up to this match.
Villa hero to RedScouse Villain in the summer? Let’s hope not!
Birmingham City Jokers Team News:
James McFadden and midfielder Sebastian Larsson will be handed late fitness tests as Alex McCleish tries to work out what to do after a number of players missed training this week.
As mentioned previously, Mauro Zarate looks set to possibly replace McFadden anyway. Oliver Kapo may return to the Blues squad after a 7-match sitout with a hamstring problem.
Player to watch: Mauro Zarate
Mauro Zarate looks dangerous in just about every way and especially from set-pieces.
Rumoured to have been priced out of a move to Birmingham City this summer, I’d like to see us go for him as he looks like he has the extra quality our threadbare side requires.
Match Facts & Stats
Neil chose our pre-match music this week, I’m not sure what he’s hinting at regarding the choice of track, possibly the arrest of Karen Brady and David Sullivan last week.