Date: 6th November 2008 at 2:18pm
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What better a method of displaying AVFC`s bouncebackability than to lure UEFA Cup opponents Slavia Prague into a false sense of security by allowing Zat Knight a rare trip out in a 1st team shirt?

Villa travel to Prague on the back of a dismal 2-0 defeat at the hands of a Newcastle United side that once more created controversy thanks to a certain Joey Barton, and Martin O`Neill went down the “I`m going to baffle and bemuse” route with his idea of a rotation policy (i.e. not to bother!) The squad is however, depleted, with James Milner and Stan Petrov out with injuries, and Marlon Harewood/Isaiah Osbourne staying behind as their respective partners are due to bring children into the world!

It`s Villa, Praha, babies, it`s a preview written whilst sober for a change, brilliant!!!!

Vital Quotes:

Alcoholism aside, turning our attention to Martin O`Neill who obviously read my forum postings regarding his bizarre “rotation” discussion prior to our defeat against Joe-kin-yeah`s Newcastle United side as he focused purely on our UEFA Cup opponents who are unbeaten since moving into their new stadium, Stadion Eden. He told avfc.co.uk:

“‘There is an excited-nervousness about me before these games. That’s always been me – as a manager and as a player. I love these nights.
“I used to love visiting new cities and different stadiums when I was a player and it’s the same now I am a manager.
“At the moment, I am obviously concerned because Slavia Prague are a good side but I feel we should approach the game positively.
“They reminded us in the press conference that they have a great record here at home. They asked what sort of plans we have to stop them. I think they are pretty confident of victory.”


He added:

“They are an excellent side, very compact and very gifted technically. While I think it will be difficult, I just feel we have to go out and impose ourselves on the game and be determined.”

Meanwhile, Brad Fridel, who I in all honesty had expected to be dropped in favour of giving fellow American Brad Guzan a whirl at European football, says he is looking forward to coming across former Liverpool team-mate Vladimir Smicer. The 35-year old is a good part of the Slavia squad, and Friedel knows that despite his age, he remains dangerous! Friedel told the OS:

“‘I know one of their players very well, Vladimir Smicer, and he is an excellent player.
‘He is a great guy – a real joker. He is a good man and happy to be finishing his career in his home country. It was good to see him before training and it will be good to come up against him this evening.”


Friedel was also waxing lyrical about a dangerous Czech side:

“We have watched the opposition on DVD a few times and they are going to be a very good challenge. We are going to have our work cut out.
“But these are the sort of draws you want – with full stadiums and teams who can play good football.”


*****
Turning our attention to Praha, the aforementioned Mr Smicer has been telling the press about their chances against the mighty Aston Villa.

“It’s a really good chance for us,’ said the former Liverpool player. ‘We know they are a good team but we are playing at home and would like to make a good game and have a good result. At the moment I think they play really good football.”

“I have a lot of respect for Aston Villa; I remember they have a nice stadium and really good fans. My friend Patrik Berger played there so I was watching them quite closely.”

Patrik Berger, hmm, more about that forgotten zero to hero to zero later!

Slavia Praha Team News:

Er em ehh,, er, hmm.

That`s a good question. I`d imagine Vlad Smicer is going to play, aside from that according to the worlds media Slavia don`t have a team, so we`ll have to leave it at that.

Player to watch: Vladmir Smicer

The former Liverpool man will be looking to make an impact with the British media taking a natural interest in the former European champions popping up in Prague. Once a rapid player, how, more than likely still a tad of pace with the addition of many years of technical ability. Think Patrik Berger, only less geriatric!

AVFC Team News:

Villa travel to Prague minus Stiliyan Petrov, James Milner who are both injured. Petrov is still struggling with a hamstring injury. Young Jimmy hasn`t recovered from a sore “side.” It is not known as to whether it`s Milner`s good side, or bad side. How very random!

Congratulations to the other pair of absentees, as mentioned previously, Marlon Harewood and Isaiah Osbourne. No injuries, no suspensions, Marlon`s partner has just given birth, whilst Isaiah`s other half is due to give birth within the next few days.

What a lovely story, yet, naturally, leaving us short on players. Monny may well ring the changes, with yet another Premier League match to come at the weekend and we could see a mixture of fringe and youth players given a whirl.

Player to watch: Steve Sidwell

I expect Sidders to get the start, and hopefully impress, as he`s by #1 choice to go on my electric blue away shirt ready for my own away trip to Florida.

A chance to shine on the European stage, will certainly give him an option to push on into a decent Premiership career with the greatest team in the EPL!

Useless Facts:

What`s the link? Answers on a postcard!

East (Europe) Side!

I did say that we`d discuss Patrik “Beef” Berger a wee bit more. Mr Berger, since leaving Villa in the summer having amassed a whopping 29 games in a claret & blue shirt, though admittedly was part of one of the greatest goals we`ve scored in recent history! Berger has since joined Slavia`s arch-rivals, Sparta Prague.

According to the Slavia Prague website, their players have a tradition of joining the Praha faithful in the stands to hear a rendition of their anthem “Red and white! Fighting Force! We are always with you!” What a cracking idea!

The City of Prague was invaded by the Germans on the 15th March 1939. It wasn`t liberated until the 10th May 1945, as the Russian Red Army liberated the city following a local revolt.

The Stadion Eden, home of Slavia Praha, was opened on the 7th May of this year, as an exhibition match saw the likes of former VIllan Berger take part against Oxford University AFC. The toffs were trodden by the Czechs 5-0.

The new stadium holds 21,000 people and is also home to the Czech National side.

This has probably been the most serious facts section, so far this season!

Ref Watch:

The refereeing team for this match are from Cyprus, with ref Costas Kapitanis being backed up by fellow Cypriots Frixos Petrou and Michalis Sotiriou.

Match Prediction:

A very hard fought 1-0 victory for the Villans.

Next Fixtures:

Domestic duties return as Villa face Middlesbrough at home on Remembrance Sunday.