Que Sera, Sera.

Another year and another trip to Wembley for the famous Claret and Blue. Pep Fraudiola may think that the League Cup needs scrapping for the good of English football (his clubs chances in the Champions League) but yesterday served as a stark reminder of just how wrong he is. Football is not about oil money, it’s not about alleviating a hectic schedule or even about the frequency of festive injuries. Football is about us, the hundreds of euphoric Brummies storming onto a floodlit pitch to celebrate with their heroes.

Mings, mobbed like the cult hero he is.

We’ve seen it all since Phil Dowd ruined our last League Cup final; a gradual decay and growing frustration; an FA cup final humiliation; 17 points and relegation; Bruce, Xia then Fulham, minutes away from liquidation. Edens, Sawiris and Smith, a new foundation; 10 wins in a row, growing expectation; Promotion at Wembley, Jack’s four day celebration.

All of this in a decade, yet we remain; this is our club and this is our beautiful game. As the roof was launched clean off of our cathedral last night, the founders of the football league had mounted the ultimate defence of the League Cup. We were the underdogs and 180 minutes against Leicester seemed like an impossible task to anybody present when they beat us 4-1 earlier in the season. But this is football and anything can happen.

Knockout competitons are special for this exact reason; last season we saw some of the most exhilarating matches ever in Europe as both Liverpool and Spurs overcame seemingly insurmountable odds in the most dramatic of fashions. But football is not just for teams in Europe, it is for all of us. If you want to watch a money dominated procession contested by only a few teams then stick Formula One on.

For top managers like Klopp and Pep, who have declared war on our domestic compeitions this year, Villa’s League Cup campagn should be a slice of humble pie. Yes, the festive fixture list may be ‘hectic’ and this may result in a few injuries. Infact, for us it has been devastating as we’ve had to play 5 games without a striker, yet I didn’t see Dean Smith or the fans complaining last night. I didn’t see a previously written-off Orjan Nyland berating the festive schedule while he made a trio of scintilating saves and played his way back into the hearts of the Villa faithful. Instead, I saw a sea of exaltation as some of the most deserving fans in the land belted out Que Sera, Sera; overjoyed at another chance to see their club at Wembley.

Nyland did not seem too upset to get his chance in a supposedly pointless cup competition.

The irony is that en route to our defence of the League Cup, we have barely had a game to win. After Brighton (A) came the Dingles, their shirt numbers came to a combined 622 and we dispatched them by two goals to one; Elmohamady grabbed the winner in the 57th minute. Liverpool followed Wolves and we beat the World Champions 5-0; a demolition, a humiliation for them and a loss that will forever be a stain on what may well become an unbeaten season. Not everybody can mix it with Elmohamady and clearly our Egyptian was a step too far for Klopp’s men. It could have been Nuno or Klopp celebrating on the touchline last night and sending their fans into rapture; if only they had respected the cup.

But it wasn’t, this was Aston Villa’s night and the players certainly earned it. In the first leg, our new system paid dividends as Guilbert took advantage of his more attacking role and poked in a shock opener. Our defence stood firm until a self-inflicted equaliser evened the score for Leicester late on. In reality though, despite their 25 long range stat padders, they were limited to very few chances. It was all to play for last night, and boy did we play.

The game got off to a frenzied start as Nyland made three quite remarkable saves, whilst Schmeichel did well to deal with a Targett cross after some exquisite interplay with Jack. This link-up once again justified our new wing back system on its own, as Jack performed his usual magic, popping the ball off his standing foot and into the path of a charging Targett who fired the ball past a helpless Schmeichel. We had the lead in the tie once again.

Targett celebrates Villa’s opener.

Leciester had plenty of shots, yet it was Villa who had the best chances; Grealish curled a sublime pass into Samatta’s path but sadly the debutant could not make the all important connection. Luiz and Nakamba both played a blinder in midfield and are forming a brilliant, combative partnership in the middle of the park. Yet this could not stop Iheanacho sneaking in at the back post and making it 6 goals in 6 games against Villa; this all felt too familiar and even the most optimistic of fans was wracked with pessimistic expectation. We are Villa, we don’t get nice things and a Jamie Vardy winner seemed inevitable, yet it did not come. What did occur, was nothing short of extraordinary.

Elmohamady, the veteran right back who has been at the very heart of this League Cup campaign picked the ball up just into Leicester’s half, took two touches to compose himself and then whipped in a cross that has the ‘bend it like Beckham’ producers scrambling back into the studio. This was a cross that eliminates every bit of poor defending he has ever produced (a lot) from my mind. It soared through the air on the perfect trajectory and right on cue was his fellow Egyptian, Trezeguet, who sprinted onto the physics defying cross and passed a delicate volley back across the goal and into the net.

Cue bedlam, cue limbs and cue ‘a return to the dark ages’. We are the mighty Aston Villa and we were back in the lead, back in the cup final and back on the pitch. Just over a month since Vardy had mocked the Holte end, he left the pitch distraught and just like Deeney, he had learned his lesson. For us, this was a special night and Wembley awaits; who knows, we might even turn up and find a celebratory scarf under all our seats…

Que Sera Sera, UTV and thanks for reading.

By Callum Richardson ( @C_G_Richardson )

Villa vs. Leicester: The 2nd Leg Preview

A few weeks on from the first leg at the King Power Stadium, and it’s fair to say Villa have had an eventful run of games since gaining that admirable, and a little unexpected, draw at high flying Leicester. We followed up that battling performance with an horrific capitualtion against reigning champions Manchester City, but since then we’ve licked our wounds and have proceeded to get 4 much needed points from our last two games.

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View Across the Dugout – Brighton vs Aston Villa, ft. We Are Brighton

Today, the mighty Aston Villa face Brighton and Hove Albion at the AMEX in what anyone would describe an important game for both teams. Eager to bounce back after Sunday’s 6-1 humiliation at the hands of Manchester City, Villa will look to complete the league double over Brighton this season after an incredible last-minute Targett winner saw Villa take the three points in the reverse fixture at Villa Park.

To get an opposition perspective on today’s game, we spoke to We Are Brighton.

 

1. Brighton’s solid draw against Chelsea and win over Bournemouth has been cancelled out by defeat to Everton. How have Brighton performed over the last three games?

From the outside looking in, four points against a struggling Bournemouth and a Chelsea who perhaps aren’t what they once were might not be that much to shout about. But for Brighton, they were significant results.

Bournemouth were very much our bogey side. We hadn’t beaten them since 2008, a run which stretched back 12 games and across the Premier League, Championship and League One. They were also the opponents who hammered the nail into the coffin which convinced many Albion fans that Chris Hughton’s time was coming to an end when they won 5-0 at the Amex last April. So beating them was no mean feat and we’d never taken a league point off Chelsea before, so that was another monkey off the back.

As for Everton last weekend, the less said about that the beter. What defeat at Goodison Park did do is hammer home just how important Aaron Mooy is to us after he missed the game injured.
2. Like Dean Smith, Graham Potter is a manager who proved his worth in the Championship to manage in the Premier League. How is he impressing Seagulls fans?

The football is a world away from the avoid-defeat-at-all-costs stuff Hughton was serving up by the end. Ultimately, that’s why Tony Bloom brought him in. Hughton’s style was only ever suited to surviving in the Premier League and Bloom has rathr boldly stated that he wants the Albion to be a top 10 club. If we’ve finished higher than 17th come the end of the season, then we’ll know whether it was a gamble that has paid off.
3. Villa were linked with Neal Maupay in the summer, who of course plays for Brighton now – how has he been getting on?

I’d give him a solid 6.5/10 so far. He’s our top scorer with seven goals, his workrate is superb and the fact he goes out of his way to wind oppositions fans up at every opportunity is very enjoyable. He has though missed a lot of simple chances which, had he have taken, could have put him easily into double figures so far. If he can improve his conversion rate, than we could have a top player on our hands given that he’s still in his early twenties.
4. What are Brighton’s main targets in the transfer window?

We generally don’t do much business in January, which is probably a good thing as most of the signings we’ve made in this window have been dreadful. In fact, only Anthony Knockaert and Leonardo Ulloa could be considered a success going back over the past decade.

If Potter does enter the market, then I’d hope it would be for a left back. Dan Burn has been very much a square peg in a round hole solution as a 6’7 centre half playing out of position. He’s now crocked anyway, which means Bernardo is back in the side. Potter doesn’t seem keen on Glenn Murray either despite what he keeps saying in public, in which case another striker to ease the burden on Maupay wouldn’t go amiss.
5. What constitutes a successful season for Brighton?

Improving on last season’s 17th position. Given that we won only two league games between January and the end of last season, it shouldn’t be too difficult for Potter to do that. Fingers crossed.
6. What are Brighton’s main strengths you will utilise against Villa?

We were well in control at Villa Park until Aaron Mooy lost his marbles and picked up two stupid bookings in the space of five minutes. If he can stay on the pitch for more than 30 minutes this time, then I think Villa might have serious problems containing him. Most Brighton fans had their doubts when we signed him on loan on the final day of August’s transfer window, but he’s been an absolute joy to watch.
7. What kind of Brighton lineup can we expect?

There’s doubts about Shane Duffy’s fitness which would leave Potter with just two decent centre backs available, so presumably the back three we saw at Everton would be ditched. Other than that, who knows? It’s a very futile exercise trying to predict Brighton’s starting XI this season as Potter is constantly chopping and changing personnel and formations, usually with some whacky idea thrown in. We’ve seen four centre backs starting, six central midfielders on the pitch at once and three wingers in the line up on a day when we played 4-2-2-2 and so didn’t require any natural width.
8. After a last-ditch Targett winner at Villa Park, will the outcome be the same at the AMEX, or do you foresee Saturday’s game going differently?

Our home form hasn’t been the best this season but we’re yet to have three bad performances in a row under Potter. Last week aganst Everton was dire and the previous Saturday we were deservedly dumped out the FA Cup by Sheffield Wednesday. Hopefully there’ll be a reaction to those defeats, so I’m going with a tentative 2-1 – although I’ll be sticking some money on the draw.

Thank you again to We Are Brighton for graciously providing the answers to our questions.

Across The Dugout: Villa v Man City Preview

After a much needed win at Burnley and an encouraging performance and result at Leicester in midweek, the horror show at Watford is thankfully beginning to be pushed towards the back of our minds. After a run of 4 consecutive away fixtures in all competitions, a return to Villa Park and home comforts is a welcome relief. Nevertheless with defending champions Manchester City in town, it’s not the straightforward welcome home we could perhaps have wanted.

In advance of another huge clash for Villa in our current relegation battle, we sought the City perspective on the tie from Richard Dugdale (@ignoblewretch) from Man City Xtra (@City_Xtra). Here’s what he had to say.

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