Blackburn Rovers host Aston Villa in the first of the Carling Cup semi-final first legs at Ewood Park, just three days after the sides met in the FA Cup Third Round.

Villa ran out 3-1 winners that day, with Nathan Delfouneso, Carlos Cuellar and John Carew on target that day, while Nikola Kalinic scored for the visitors. Martin O'Neill's side were already 2-0 up when Rovers were reduced to 10 men when El Hadji Diouf was sent off, three minutes before the break, to make the home side's job even more difficult.

That win evened things up this season, with Rovers having won the Premier League meeting between the two sides back in September. Gabriel Agbonlahor opened the scoring in Lancashire, after just five minutes, but Chris Samba and David Dunn made sure of the points.

Despite the recent result no one is reading too much into it:

"I don't think the result will have a big bearing on Tuesday because of the way we played in the second half," Allardyce told

"If they had walked all over us and beat us four of five nil, then that might have put a little doubt in our players minds. But we contained them really well with ten men.

"There'll be two different teams out there on Tuesday night, it is who will be able to handle the pressure the better and who will be able to take their chances when they come round.

"Hopefully that will be us, it is the first leg and we want to get our noses in front to come back to Villa Park to try and get through over the two legged situation that we've got."

Carlos Cuellar told "The Carling Cup semi-final will be a different game, but this has given us confidence.

"This game will be very different because we are so close to the final.

"They know us better now and we know them better, too. It will be different because it's a semi-final."

Sam Allardyce's side are looking for their first silverware since 2002, when they won the League Cup by beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium. Matt Jansen and Andy Cole were on the scoresheet that day and tonight will provide the perfect stage for someone else to be a hero.

Aston Villa's last domestic silverware came back in 1996 when they also won the League Cup, beating Leeds United 3-0 in the Final. They have won the Intertoto Cup since but Martin O'Neill would love to get his hands on the trophy he has already won twice as both a player and manager.


This will be the 161st meeting between the two sides but their first in this competition. The first game came way back in October 1888 with Villa running out 6-1 winners but in the return match, a month later, Rovers won 5-1 before also winning 8-1 in the FA Cup later the same season.

Villa narrowly lead the head to head with 67 wins compared to 59 for Blackburn, while 34 games have ended all square.


Blackburn will be without El Hadj Diouf as he begins a three-match ban, following his red card on Saturday but the good news is that Brett Emerton has recovered from the groin strain, which has forced him to miss the last four matches. Vince Grella will be missing with a thigh strain but David Dunn should be ok to play, providing he suffers no ill effects from the 55 minutes he played at the weekend.

Aston Villa will be hoping James Milner is fit enough to return after missing Saturday's match with a foot problem but Fabien Delph, who was replaced at half time in that game due to illness, is included in the squad.

The second leg takes place at Villa Park on Wednesday 20th January.

Celebrating 50 years of the League Cup