The last time we visited Villa Park was a curious old affair. Yakubu scored our first goal away from home for four months to make it 1-1 after Angel had opened the scoring, but a bizarre pinball goal late on (eventually credited to Vassell) sent us home empty handed. It was during our "winter of discontent" with the side ravaged by injuries, in fact Alan Knight made it onto the bench!
Luckily, the squad is not quite so thin this time around. However, the players who are unlucky to be out are key ones. Last season Pompey only won one game without Steve Stone in the side, whereas this season we'll have to try our luck without him again. Stone also misses the chance to come up against his former club, one he left under strained circumstances after falling out with ex-boss Graham Taylor. Patrik Berger and Diomansy Kamara are also huge losses; the former has been sensational this season whilst the latter was just starting to hit the back of the net - with the continual good form of Yak, LuaLua and Fuller, hopefully they can fill the gap. Finally, Faye is likely to miss out; but with the sudden assured rise of Valery Mezague, we've got a perfect stand-in.
After last weekend, I'm quietly confident about this one. A draw would be a good result, and I'm hoping for a 1-1. We'll have to go steady as Villa are no mugs - Hendrie is also in a devilish run of goalscoring form. But sooner or later we're going to have to start taking the initiative and losing our fear of playing away from home - and what better time than tomorrow?