Aston Villa vs Portsmouth Preview

By Jim Bonner
Last updated : 17 October 2008
Pompey travel to Villa Park tomorrow for a game billed by some as an early six-pointer for the UEFA Cup places this season.

Martin O'Neill's side have started this campaign very well and look like a genuine threat to the "big four" despite their last result against Chelsea.

Pompey have made a solid start to the season and the result of this game will turn that start into either a respectively average start if we get beaten or an excellent start if we win. A draw wouldn't be a bad result at all.

The task of beating the hosts tomorrow is difficult enough on its own but Harry Redknapp has more than a few injury problems, especially in midfield, to come to terms with.

Lassana Diarra, Younes Kaboul and Richard Hughes are all expected to miss the game, meaning our central midfield partnership will consist of the ultimate goalscoring threat of Sean Davis and Papa Bouba Diop.

Glen Little is vying for the right midfield spot with John Utaka and I expect the former Reading man to start as our Nigerian winger is still too inconsistent and gives no defensive cover on the right of midfield too. The rest of the team should line up as you'd expect.

That will mean Peter Crouch and David James lining up against their former club tomorrow and we all know that means they'll either play out of their skins or they'll have mares. Jamo had a nightmare when up against another former club in Man City so I pray we don't see a repeat!

Villa are going to be near full strength for this encounter with Gabriel Agbonlahor the only doubt for the match which means Marlon Harewood could deputise. Carlos Cuellar and James Milner could also start the match as O'Neill looks to shuffle his pack.

Redknapp will be hoping that several Villans won't come back to bite him in the arse. Nigel Reo-Coker, Gareth Barry, Stilyan Petrov and Nicky Shorey all were very close to coming to Fratton Park but are now claret and blue.

Villa have scored more and conceded less than we have and also have the player of the month for September in Ashley Young. If our attack-minded wingers aren't up it defensively then we could get ripped apart.

I do fear that if we concede an early goal then we're in for another long afternoon like at Stamford Bridge and Eastlands but we have won every game when we have scored first since the 4-2 defeat at Watford in April 2007 so perhaps that is something to boost confidence going into this one.

If we could claim victory tomorrow then we may be looking at having an even better season than last but it will be a very tall order.

Predicted Starting Line-Ups

Aston Villa

GK: Brad FRIEDEL

RB: Luke YOUNG
CB: Carlos CUELLAR
CB: Martin LAURSEN
LB: Nicky SHOREY

RM: James MILNER
CM: Nigel REO-COKER
CM: Gareth BARRY
LM: Ashley YOUNG

CF: Marlon HAREWOOD
CF: John CAREW

Pompey

GK: David JAMES

RB: Glen JOHNSON
CB: Sol CAMPBELL
CB: Sylvain DISTIN
LB: Nadir BELHADJ

RM: Glen LITTLE
CM: Sean DAVIS
CM: Papa BOUBA DIOP
LM: Armand TRAORE

CF: Jermain DEFOE
CF: Peter CROUCH

Last Time: Aston Villa 1 Pompey 3

Villa started the game really well as Martin Laursen missed two free headers early on but Pompey took the lead after Craig Gardner directed the ball into his own net following Noe Pamarot's mishit shot.

Sulley Muntari then became the star of the show with two absolute crackers either side of half-time to finish Villa off. Gareth Barry pulled one back from the spot but Diop should have tapped in a fourth to confirm Pompey's first win at Villa Park for 37 years.

Pundit Watch

Lawro: Home Win (2-1)
Sky Sports: Home Win (2-1)
Soccernet: Home Win

My Prediction: Whilst I think we have enough up front to nick a goal, I do worry about our defence down the wings. I think Villa will be too good for us tomorrow but then I said the same thing before the Everton game and look what happened there...

Aston Villa 2 Pompey 1

Portsmouth Match Reports

Sky Bet League One Sat 21st October 15:00

Blackburn Rovers 3 - 0 Portsmouth

Last game - Match Centre


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