Tuesday 08 January 2013
Aston Villa travel to Bradford City tonight favourites to reach the final of the Capital One Cup for the ninth time, but manager Paul Lambert will be very wary of their League Two opposition, who knocked out Arsenal in the previous round.
"I've managed at that sort of level and I know exactly what it's like, and I know what it's going to be like there," said Lambert. "That's why I never underestimate any game and you've got to give Bradford a lot of credit for what they've done.
"Everyone outside will assume Villa will win - the same as everyone assumed Arsenal would beat them - and when you don't do that, it becomes a huge thing."
"The beauty is you've got two cracks at it but it's going to be really tough"
Lambert knows that with the semi-final being over two legs, defeat at Bradford would not spell the end of their hopes of adding to the five League Cups they have won, the one in 1996 being Villa's last silverware.
"The beauty is you've got two cracks at it but it's going to be really tough, because Bradford have absolutely nothing to lose," he added. "Whatever way you look at it, they've gained a lot of credit and a lot of plaudits, so we have to be ready for this game."
The Villa manager's biggest selection conundrum concerns goalkeepers Brad Guzan and Shay Given. Guzan has been the regular Barclays Premier League goalkeeper while Given has played in the Capital One Cup and FA Cup matches.
"That's really hard because the two of them are playing unbelievable at the minute," Lambert said. "Brad has been excellent in the league and Shay has been different class in the cup.
"Would I swap them for any two keepers in the Premier League? Not the way they are. This club is really fortunate that it's got two world-class goalkeepers."
Lambert has a stronger squad to choose from than of late with Darren Bent, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Charles N'Zogbia all involved after injury in the weekend FA Cup win over Ipswich Town.
In the other semi-final on Wednesday, Swansea City start their quest to reach the final of a leading English competition for the first time when they travel to Chelsea in the first of two legs.
Gerhard Tremmel is set to start in goal at Stamford Bridge for the Welsh side. The German has played throughout the run to the last four and manager Michael Laudrup feels he has earned the right to keep his place ahead of Michel Vorm. Angel Rangel should be available after a calf problem, while Pablo Hernandez, Ashley Williams and Michu should all return to the starting line-up.
Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez has no fresh injury concerns. Petr Cech (groin) and John Terry (knee) remain out, although the latter could play for with the Under-21 team on Thursday. John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses are also unavailable having left for African Nations Cup duty with Nigeria.
Tuesday 8 January
Bradford City v Aston Villa, 7.45pm
Wednesday 9 January
Chelsea v Swansea City, 7.45pm
Tuesday 22 January
Aston Villa v Bradford City, 7.45pm
Wednesday 23 January
Swansea City v Chelsea, 7.45pm