This Wednesday will see Aston Villa face Colchester United in the First Round of the Carabao Cup. This time last year saw Aston Villa fall to Luton Town in an embarrassing 3-1 defeat away from home.
This year, the stakes are high for Aston Villa with both fans and pundits alike claiming that they will, or should be gaining promotion from the Championship this season. Granted, some fans had the same opinion last year, but hopes seem to be better placed this season with the influx of experience that has been added.
The potential result of tomorrow’s clash with Colchester United could be determined by various factors. Last season, Roberto Di Matteo fielded a strong team consisting of Mark Bunn, Jordan Amavi, Jores Okore, Micah Richards, Nathan Baker, Andre Green, Aaron Tshibola, Gary Gardner, Jack Grealish, Ross McCormack and Jordan Ayew. Ayew opened the scoring early on and things looked to be plain sailing until Luton equalised. Here we were, a side fresh out of the Premier League with a relatively strong and relatively young squad, struggling against a League Two team. Now, smaller sides causing upsets is part and parcel of the magic that is cup competitions and I wouldn’t downplay what Luton achieved by thrashing us and sending us crashing down to earth – but more was expected from the boys in claret and blue.
If Bruce fields a full strength side, he risks embarrassment once more. Fans have been calling for young prospects to get a chance for years, and with the likes of Rushian Hepburn-Murphy and Harry McKirdy proverbially knocking on the first team’s door and Andre Green and Keinan Davis already breaking through, we should see a mixture of experience and youthful excitement in the side tomorrow.
Colchester, unlike Villa, had an incredibly shaky performance on their opening day, losing 3-1 to Accrington Stanley. The U’s are coming into the new season after a 8th placed finish in League Two, and are keen to push towards the play-offs this season.
Both sides could make decent headway in their leagues if they lose tomorrow, with one less thing to concentrate on it allows more specialised training for the season ahead. Then again, if either side win, the success in the first round of the cup could spark a run that would be much appreciated by both sides.
The interesting thing to discuss is whether a lengthy cup run would be worthwhile during such an important season, or whether it would hinder the sides form in the long run in towards the later half of the season. If Bruce should chose to field a side mixed with experience and youth, then he should be wary of tiring out important players before the Cardiff away fixture on the weekend, which is a tough game in itself.
It would be wise to field a mix of experience and youth, to not only appease the fans that have been calling for younger players to get a chance, but to give those players the opportunity to shine and to also avoid the potential embarrassment of fielding a full strength side if we do actually crash out of the cup at such an early stage once more.
Colchester will be a tough game coming off the back of a 3-1 defeat to Stanley, and they will be more than prepared to dog it out against whatever side Villa decide to play. If Bruce does field a full strength team, we should win comfortably. If he chooses otherwise, we should still get a decent 2-1 result.
Only time will tell whether Bruce favours a lengthy cup run or placing all of his eggs in the Championship’s basket. All we can do is wait and see.