BRADFORD, United Kingdom (AFP) –
Darren Bent will hope to keep his place in Aston Villa’s starting XI for Tuesday’s League Cup semi-final first leg at Bradford City after his goal-scoring return in the FA Cup.
The England striker had been sidelined for five matches with a hamstring injury but he made an immediate impact against former club Ipswich Town on Saturday by scoring the equaliser as Villa came from behind to win 2-1.
Villa have been bedevilled by injuries in recent weeks but coach Paul Lambert was also able to welcome back Charles N’Zogbia and Gabriel Agbonlahor, who made a substitute appearance after overcoming a thigh problem.
N’Zogbia, who had not started a game since the end of September, caught the eye in a withdrawn striker’s role, and Lambert said he was enthused by the contribution of his attacking players.
“That was the really pleasing thing, to have the players back from injury,” he said.
“That finish is Darren Bent down to a tee. It was top-class. But I thought his overall game was very good; his whole work ethic and the way he played.
“I thought his whole general game was very good, considering he only really trained with us yesterday (Friday), so it was a big, big effort from him.
“Charles N’Zogbia is certainly a talent, there is no two ways about it.”
Villa have been sucked into the Premier League’s relegation scrap in recent weeks after a run of four games without victory and Tuesday’s game represents an opportunity to inject some excitement into what has been a difficult season.
Lambert provided an indication of his priorities in the game against Ipswich by making seven changes to the team that had drawn 2-2 at Swansea City in their previous league game.
“We left out a few lads to give them a break and I was delighted with everyone that came in,” he said. “I thought it was a massive effort.”
Fourth-tier Bradford are bidding to take a third consecutive Premier League scalp, after disposing of Wigan Athletic in round four before recording a famous penalty shoot-out victory over Arsenal in the quarter-finals.
Success in the two-legged tie, which concludes on January 22, would take the Yorkshire club into a major domestic final for the first time since they beat Newcastle United after a replay to claim the 1911 FA Cup.
Bradford lost 2-0 to Barnet on Saturday, leaving them eighth in League Two, but manager Phil Parkinson said the distraction of Tuesday’s game was not to blame.
“I can’t fault the lads’ effort throughout the game,” he said.
“The way they applied themselves and focused on this game and not Tuesday was commendable, but for all of our dominance, we have to make the keeper work more.”
Bradford City v Aston Villa
Chelsea v Swansea City