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Aston Villa preview.

Conventional wisdom dictates that you look first and foremost to land a home tie in the FA Cup, given the fact that our record against Villa - and at Villa Park particularly, leads to a certain amount of confidence ahead of the trip down the M6 tomorrow.

Both sides have been inconsistent for the better part of the season - illustrated for Villa by their destruction of Middlesbrough away from home only to slip up against Newcastle at home the following week. It is their home form which has been most frustrating for Villa - winning only three games at Villa Park this season, whilst our away form has been the problem of late for us, and of concern is that ten of our last eleven defeats in the FA Cup have been at the hands of top flight opposition.

We certainly outplayed Villa in the home league game earlier in the season, with old boy Darius Vassell enjoying a productive evening. We will miss the presence of Andrew Cole alongside Vassell tomorrow, but at least his month long absence will give Georgios Samaras a decent run of games to settle in and show what he can do. Claudio Reyna and Nedum Onouha are still out and there are late doubts over Sun Jihai and Trevor Sinclair - who may play with a protective mask.

Sinclair has arguably been the player of the season for us so far, and his performances have in some part compensated for the loss of SWP. Villa have injury concerns themselves over Jlloyd Samuel and Stephen Davis. On paper, we look the strongest all round side and I expect Joey Barton to be able to win the midfield battle and allow our wide men to see plenty of opportunity to attack down the flanks. The front line of Villa has the potential to cause us problems but I see a lack of creativity in their midfield.

There is a lot riding on this tie as for both sides it arguably gives the most realistic opportunity of European qualification (certainly in Villa's case). Also, looking around the other fifth round ties there could be a far easier opponent in store at the quarter final stage. A lot of pundits are anticipating a tight-game with so much being at stage, and a replay deciding the winners.

I am feeling confident of us being able to progress straight from the game tomorrow though and take us to win 3-1.