The last 10 days have been tumultuous for the Villa- a 1-0 loss to Sunderland, in which Emile Heskey popped an absolute sitter off the bar from three yards out before being sent off for palming the face of Jordy Henderson, saw Villa enter the relegation zone for the first time in eight years and manager Gerard Houllier leave Villa Park with security guards while being serenaded with chants of being "sacked in the morning."
Villa turned that around, into a 3-1 FA Cup win over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane. Loan signing Kyle Walker debuted at right back, scoring a brilliant goal 9 minutes in before Marc Albrighton thumped home an Ashley Young cross on 33 minutes. The Blades made it interesting, scoring an early second-half penalty and taking the attack to Villa, notably after Young's sending off with 15 minutes left. Club captain and late substitute Stiliyan Petrov scored in stoppage time, however, to end the Blades' threats and send Villa to a fourth round home matchup with Blackburn Rovers.
All this to set up the second leg of the Second City Derby in the league campaign. Villa travel to St. Andrew's ground for the second time this season, having lost heartbreakingly 2-1 to a Nikola Zigic stoppage time winner in the Carling Cup quarterfinal. The first league matchup this season was a nevry 0-0 draw at Villa Park. For the return, Villa will be without Emile Heskey, serving the second of a three-match ban for his "violent" red card at Sunderland, and Ashley Young, serving a one-match ban for the sending off last weekend. Missing through injury will be Luke Young and Fabian Delph, both with knee injuries. The Blues, meanwhile, might be without central defender Scott Dann, who was taken off for an injury in the Blues' 2-1 first-leg Carling Cup semifinal defeat to West Ham yesterday, but will have out-of-favor Tottenham winger David Bentley, who just joined the club on loan.
On the transfer front, Villa have already seen Steve Sidwell make a move to Fulham, after his initial move to West Ham collapsed. On the inbound front, the aforementioned Kyle Walker has come in on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, seeing his prospects for a starting place crowded out by Alan Hutton, Vedran Corluka and Kyle Naughton. Colorado Rapids striker Omar Cummings will be training with Villa until the MLS season kicks off in March, with his actual appearance in the squad dependent on a work permit for the Jamaican. And just today, Gerard Houllier jetted off to France with the aim of sealing the transfer of Cameroonian midfielder Jean Makoun from Olympique Lyonnais. L'Equipe reported that the transfer could be finalized in time for Makoun to be named to the Villa squad on Sunday; most recent reports have the transfer agreed between the clubs, but Makoun's personal terms will not be agreed in time for him to have a work permit by Sunday.
For the match on Sunday, the Capital Villans will be at Fado, on 7th NW between H and I, as they show the match on tape-delay beginning at 11 o'clock. See you there!