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Page last updated at 22:29 GMT, Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Wednesday football as it happened


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By Sam Lyon

2225: So, once again, the Carling Cup delivers a right royal night's entertainment. We have our four semi-finalists... and in Manchester City we have at least one representative in the knockout stages of the Europa League. Liverpool will hope to join them with a positive result against Steaua Bucharest tomorrow - I'll be back to talk you through that - but before then Chris Bevan is on for an early 0800 GMT start as he counts us down to the announcement of who has won the right to host the 2018 and 2022 Fifa World Cups. Can England win the nod? We'll hopefully find out around 1500 GMT tomorrow afternoon. And if the tension keeps you up for a while this evening, check out the Football League Cup Show at 2325 on BBC One and this website for all your Carling Cup highlights. Adios amigos!

Chief football writer Phil McNulty reports:
"Birmingham City victorious but hard on Aston Villa, who enjoyed the majority of possession. Still, the much-maligned Nikola Zigic mustered the decisive touch that proved beyond Gerard Houllier's side."

Paul Fletcher reports:
"Ipswich deserve to be in the last four after showing more desire than West Brom. Roy Keane is now one round from leading a team out at Wembley for the first time."

Saj Chowdhury reports:
"A double from Balotelli and a lovely goal by Johnson. Job done and through to the knockout stages."

2214: So let's remind ourselves what happened this evening...

2212: Birmingham manager Alex McLeish: "I'm really proud of the players. I felt we deserved it for our efforts over the game. You think decisions aren't going to go you're way. And we could have been 2-0 up if the offside had gone our way. But we got our reward in the second half." Villa boss Gerard Houllier: "I'm very disappointed for the fans and the players. We were probably the better team overall and probably deserved more. But we made silly mistakes to cost us goals. We're a little stunned because I don't think the boys deserve to be out of the competition."

AndySzpuk on Twitter: "RE: The SF draw - Avram Grant chasing redemption after that Champions League final defeat at the hands of Sir Alex Ferguson - maybe this is his time...?"

2210: If you're an Arsenal or a West Ham fan in the UK, by the way, why not warm up for your Carling Cup semi-finals by watching highlights of your side's quarter-final wins over Wigan and Man Utd?

Europa League Macca: "So a stroll in the park for Man City but a bit of drama elsewhere, not least in the other group game where Juve pulled one back late on away to Lech Poznan. It's still not enough for the Italians, who come up short and cannot now qualify. In Group B, Leverkusen go through as winners but the other spot is up for grabs after Aris Salonika sealed a late 3-2 win at Atletico. In Group C, Sporting go through as winners and a late goal for AA Ghent means they are in pole position to join them."

Matt_Utd_FC on 606: "Arsenal's cup..."

Ipswich Town v Arsenal
West Ham v Birmingham
Teams out first will play first leg at home
First leg played w/c 10 January, second leg w/c 24 January

2201: So... let's have the Carling Cup semi-final draw shall we? Here we go...

2200: Birmingham captain Barry Ferguson: "It's a great feeling. It's been a long time coming. We're in the semis now so anything could happen. We've shown that mentality all season, the guys never lie down. Villa had chances but I was always confident we could win it. The manager is building a new team and we're starting to close the gap on Villa."

kam_gill on Twitter: "I'm sure the scenes at St Andrew's are exactly the sort the England bid team wanted to avoid the day before the 2018 Fifa World Cup host vote."

Joe, London via text: "RE: 2146 - my my my, that is an unusual foursome. I don't think anyway could have predicted that four getting there."

Full time
2154: FULL-TIME Man City 3-0 Salzburg

2153: Back in the Europa League match at Eastlands, it's all petering out rather comfortably for Manchester City against Salzburg. They are through to the last 32 as it stands.

2151: Looks like the riot police have done a fine job at St Andrew's, forcing a few hundred Birmingham fans away from the Villa supporters the length of the pitch and back into the home stands. Let's hope that's the end of it.

2148: I spoke too soon at 2145, unfortunately, and now the Birmingham and Villa supporters are engaged in something of a slanging match either side of two rows of policeman in front of the away end. A flare was even thrown in the melee, and broken seats are being thrown. No-one wants to see this.

2146: We have our four Carling Cup semi-finalists, then, Arsenal, Birmingham City, Ipswich and West Ham. The draw for the semis coming up in just a couple of minutes folks. Don't go anywhere.

2145: Anyone wanting to know if that win and this competition is important to the Birmingham fans should see the scenes at St Andrew's now - a mass pitch invasion as the supporters surround their players and taunt their rival fans. Fortunately, it looks like diffusing as quickly as it started... but Birmingham are in heaven.

Full time
2143: FULL-TIME Birmingham 2-1 Aston Villa

2143: Well well well... the time originally allocated for stoppage time was five minutes - we're now into the 97th minute. Can Birmingham hand on?

Man City goal: Stunning goal. Adam Johnson collects the ball by the left touchline, bursts infield, dancing around three Salzburg players on his way into the box, and then curls a superb finish into the far corner. A beauty.

2140: GOALFLASH Man City 3-0 Salzburg (Johnson)

2139: Two minutes into injury time and Villa's makeshift striker James Collins rises to meet a ball from deep... but Ben Foster claims gratefully. Last season's beaten finalists on the brink of going out now...

2137: Robert Pires and Nathan Delfouneso are on for Aston Villa now. We're into stoppage time at St Andrew's - five minutes of it.

2136: Aston Villa have James Collins playing as a striker now as they go for broke in search of an equaliser. A late rally is coming Birmingham fans, make no mistake about that.

Full time
2135: FULL-TIME Ipswich 1-0 West Brom

2134: Literally seconds left in the Ipswich-West Brom game now, a couple of minutes at St Andrew's.

2133: Man City forward Mario Balotelli has felt something twinge in his leg and will have the rest of the evening off, Emmanuel Adebayor on to replace him.

Birmingham goal: Nikola Zigic has received plenty of stick this season - but has he just put Birmingham in the Carling Cup semi-finals? The Serbian is alert to get on to Cameron Jerome's low cross and he spins away in delight as it ricochets off Luke Young, up and over Brad Friedel.

2131: GOALFLASH Birmingham 2-1 Aston Villa (Zigic)

2130: Villa so close to edging in front. Gabriel Agbonlahor's cross falls to substitute Stephen Ireland, whose shot from 15 yards is palmed away by Ben Foster, but only as far as Ashley Young. The winger looks certain to score but his effort from eight yards is blocked by a Birmingham defender.

Europa League Macca: "It's still a bit quiet over in Europe. The bulk of the 25,000 fans at Atletico Madrid-Aris Salonika have probably been a bit silenced by Sergio Koke's penalty. It's 2-2 and that would be enough to prevent the Spaniards from progressing this evening. Another goal for the visitors and it would suddenly be a very different picture in Group B."

Man City goal: Yep, it's been coming. Adam Johnson wins back the ball 30 yards from the Salzburg goal and he plays a pass to Patrick Vieira whose mishit shot arrives at the feet of Mario Balotelli, the Italian making no mistake from six yards.

2127: GOALFLASH Man City 2-0 Salzburg (Balotelli)

2126: Fabulous save and Brian Murphy keeps Ipswich in front. Somen Tchoyi crosses from the left and Pablo Ibanez's header looks for all the world as if it's in - only for the home keeper to stick out a hand and tip it over.

2123: Chance for Birmingham, now, as Craig Gardner - fresh off the bench against his old side, slaps a shot narrowly wide from 20 yards. I wonder if either team fancies extra-time this evening?

PompeyCanuck on Twitter: "11,000 at Portman Road? That's nearly 4,000 more than were at the final day of the 1st Ashes Test."
Is that right? Top stat, that, if true.

2119: Oh dear, it should be 2-0 Ipswich. From a corner the ball falls to Jason Scotland unmarked and he slaps it goalwards from six yards - only to watch on in horror as it hits team-mate Tamas Priskin on the line and fly away from goal. Massive let-off for the Baggies.

2118: Fine move by City and almost a fine second, Mario Balotelli turning on to Jerome Boateng's cut-back and lashing it into the side-netting. Close.

Chief football writer Phil McNulty at St Andrew's: "Birmingham boss Alex McLeish is an agitated figure in his technical area, urging his side not just to get the ball but keep it. It has proved beyond them in a second-half controlled by Aston Villa. As yet, however, they have not pierced the usual resilient Birmingham defence so it is still all up for grabs."

2115: We're still level at St Andrew's - but it's all Villa to be honest. Birmingham providing a fine rearguard resistance at present, mind.

2113: Man City still in control at Eastlands - but while there's only a goal in it... and Stefan Hierlander almost underlines the fragility of City's lead when the ball lands at his feet a few yards out inside the hosts' area, only for his snap-shot to fly wide of Shay Given's left-hand upright.

Ipswich goal: It's probably deserved on the balance of play, but West Brom aren't happy. Carlos Edwards goes down under a challenge from Graham Dorrans - was inside the area or outside? - referee Michael Jones says it's inside and up steps Grant Leadbitter to lash home.

2110: GOALFLASH Ipswich 1-0 West Brom (Leadbitter pen)


Craig, Poznan via text: "Watching Lech Poznan on tv. It's -13 and snowing. Juve players wearing hats & snoods, they want no part of this! Mates all have large bets on Lech. Warms the cockles!"

2108: Brilliant. Salzburg kick off the second half at Eastlands... with Mario Balotelli yet to make his way back out after the break. He finally trudges back on seconds after the restart. He likes to make an entrance, that boy.

2107: The attendance at Portman Road tonight, by the way, is just over 11,000. Ouch.

2104: Will either team find their finishing boots in time to make one of these chances count at Portman Road? Tamas Priskin is again guilty of missing a gilt-edged chance for Ipswich, this time contriving to head Andros Townsend's cross over unmarked from six yards out. It was a touch high for him, perhaps, but he has to do better there, for me.

2101: Chances at both ends now at St Andrew's - first Keith Fahey's cross forces a smart stop from Brad Friedel coming out of goal, and then Villa launch a lightning break ending with Ashley Young forcing something similar from Ben Foster in the Birmingham goal.

Europa League Macca: "Not much movement elsewhere in the Euro League but the big guns are flexing their muscles in Group B. Leverkusen lead at Rosenborg through Sidney Sam's effort. It looks like the Germans and Atletico will battle it out in the final group game to see who goes through as winners."

2058: The atmosphere is still electric at St Andrew's by the way - but that's just about the best thing about that game in this half so far. Plenty of bluster from both teams, just missing a touch of quality.

2055: They've picked up in the second half where they left off in the first at Portman Road. Moments after Baggies forward Simon Cox chests it down and shoots inches wide from inside the area, Ipswich striker Tamas Priskin is millimetres away from making contact on a cross eight yards out but it eludes him and West Brom breathe again. Only missing a goal, that game.

roytherower on 606: "RE: snow delays at Young Boys v Stuttgart... what you have to realise is that here in Switzerland, we get a bit of snow and the whole place just grinds to a halt..."

2052: Back up and running in the Birmingham-Aston Villa clash.

Half time
2052: HALF-TIME Man City 1-0 Red Bull Salzburg
Saj Chowdhury's HT snap-shot:
"City could and should have scored more having dominated, but as things stand they're through to the next round. Job almost done."

2051: And that's the end of the first half at Eastlands.

2050: Another chance for City to extend their lead - and another chance wasted. James Milner this time breaks free on the right and he drives into the box, only to send his cross-shot past the far post.

Sportenkortdk on Twitter: "Re: Football League Macca - The Young Boys match was delayed due to snow. Odd how a bit of snow can influence a match played on an artificial pitch!"

2047: The second half kicks off at Portman Road, where Carlos Edwards has replaced Reggie Lambe for Ipswich.

2045: Neat little turn 25 yards out, centre of goal by Shaun Wright-Phillips but his low shot is easily saved by Salzburg keeper Gerhard Tremmel. It's all a bit flat at Eastlands, not least because it's all a bit easy for City right now.

I was George Bests Left Foot on 606: "RE: 2038 - He tripped over his full body snood."

Europa League Macca: "OK, it's full-time between Young Boys and Stuttgart - over two-and-a-half hours after it started. Young Boys won 4-2. Both teams will progress, but Stuttgart are guaranteed top slot. Odense and Getafe go out. In Group C, Sporting have taken the lead at home to Lille in the battle of the top two. It's 0-0 in the other game in that group between AA Ghent and Levski Sofia. And it's looking like being very tight for second spot at present."

2040: A few of you asking after the Carling Cup state of play tonight - we'll have a result in both the quarter-finals tonight, even if it takes extra-time and penalties. Lovely.

2038: Penalty shout for Man City at Eastlands as Mario Balotelli, dashing on to Adam Johnson's through-ball, goes down under a clumsy looking challenge in the box by Franz Schiemer, but referee Libor Kovarik is not convinced and waves play on. Replays suggest Balotelli did indeed throw himself to the ground at the most minimal of contacts - why didn't he just go on and shoot? Weird.

Half time
2036: HALF-TIME Birmingham 1-1 Aston Villa
Chief football writer Phil McNulty's HT snap-shot:
"Aston Villa will be happy with their first 45 minutes after falling behind so early on - but Birmingham look capable of creating problems and are unhappy Nikola Zigic's goal was disallowed. All still to play for."

2034: And there goes the half-time whistle at St Andrews too.

Half time
2033: HALF-TIME Ipswich 0-0 West Brom
Paul Fletcher's HT snap-shot:
"A very entertaining first half during which both teams had plenty of chances. Should Ipswich have had a penalty? We all know what Roy Keane thinks...."

2031: The half-time whistle goes at Portman Road.

2030: First chance of the night for Salzburg, Rabiu Afolabi failing to find the target with a six-yard header from a brilliant right-wing cross.

Europa League Macca: "'s as if they're trying to make me look daft. Young Boys have only gone and scored two more - both from Emmanuel Mayuka - and now lead Stuttgart 4-2. Dying stages now. It's all gone a bit crazy in Madrid as well, where Aris Salonika went into the lead after two minutes but Ateltico stars Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero have turned things around inside 20 mins. Big game there between second and third in Group B. And in Man City's group Lech Poznan have gone in front against Juve through Artjoms Rudnevs. The Italian giants facing elimination."

Europa League Macca: "Hold fire Stuttgart fans. We're still waiting for details of why but it appears that the Young Boys-Stuttgart game has not finished yet after play was suspended. Stuttgart were leading 2-1, but Young Boys grabbed a leveller. They'll need another three goals in the last 10 minutes to deny the Germans top place, but anything's possible..."

2025: Poor fourth official Darren Deadman at Portman Road. Ipswich are convinced they should have a penalty when Boaz Myhill appears to bring down Town striker Tamas Priskin - but referee Michael Jones is having none of it. With play waved on, Deadman may fear he'll soon live up to his name as a furious Roy Keane tears in at him on the touchline. Ouch.

Man City goal: No less than City deserve and immediate redemption for Mario Balotelli after that miss moments ago. Pablo Zabaleta's cross from the left is a fine one and Balotelli beats his marker to hook home from eight yards on the volley.

2023: GOALFLASH Man City 1-0 Salzburg (Balotelli)

2022: At Eastlands, it's a good chance for City as Patrick Vieira plays a low 20-yard pass to Mario Balotelli, who runs in on goal before firing in a low shot which is saved by Gerhard Tremmel. Waste.

Chief football writer Phil McNulty at St Andrews: "Gabriel Agbonlahor's equaliser is no more than Aston Villa deserve on the balance of play. Gerard Houllier's side have used width to great effect, but Birmingham still annoyed that Nikola Zigic's "goal" was ruled out for offside. Villa levelling matters seconds later has not helped the mood inside St. Andrew's."

2020: Birmingham could be back in front immediately as Cameron Jerome is released through on goal, but while his clipped finish beats Brad Friedel it also drifts wide of the far post. Let-off for Villa.

Aston Villa goal: Salt into the Blues' wounds. Birmingham nemesis Gabriel Agbonlahor gets an inch of space in the box from Jonathan Hogg's pass, he spins and lashes into the far corner. That's his third goal in three games at St Andrews.

2017: GOALFLASH Birmingham 1-1 Aston Villa (Agbonlahor)

2016: Big controversy at St Andrew's. Birmingham think they've doubled their lead when Nikola Zigic's snap-shot is spilled over his own line by Villa keeper Brad Friedel but no goal is given. Replays are a touch inconclusive - and offside is given against the Blues' Scott Dann, who was hardly interfering with play, anyway. Still, Birmingham are livid.

2015: We've had 10 minutes at Eastlands - and a big penalty shout as Pablo Zabaleta goes down a clumsy challenge from Franz Schiemer in the box - the referee is having none of it.

rwlwhite on Twitter: "For a team with 'ambition' Man City sure have put out a weak team compared to their League line-up. Serious about it? Nope!"

Europa League Macca: "As well as Man City we have another 11 Europa League ties - and five results are already in. The headlines are that Sampdoria are an early casualty after they threw away a 1-0 lead before losing 2-1 at home to PSV. Metalist Kharkiv beat Debrecen to ensure they will join PSV in the next round from Group I. In Group G it has all gone AEK's way as they won 3-1 at Hadjuk Split and Anderlecht lost 3-1 at Zenit St Petersburg. Stuttgart wrapped up top spot in Group G, with the second place still up for grabs."

2011: Aston Villa, meanwhile, continue to dominate possession against Birmingham - 65% of it in fact. The goal aside, this has been a fine start from Gerard Houllier's men. Yes, I realise that's a fairly significant aside...

2009: It continues to rain - or should that be snow? - chances at Portman Road, this time Ipswich midfielder Grant Leadbitter's low shot across goal well saved by Boaz Myhill, Tommy Smith just failing to connect with the rebound - any sort of contact on it and it would surely have been the opener.

2008: Manchester City straight on to the front foot at Eastlands and it takes a fine last-ditch clearance at the back post from Franz Schiemer to deny Jo from Shaun Wright-Phillips's cross.

2006: And we're now up and running in the Europa League encounter between Man City and Salzburg.

2005: By the way, if you lot think it's cold wherever you are - spare a thought for those at the Lerkendal stadium in Trondheim, where Rosenborg are kicking off against Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League, won't you? It was -12 earlier, brass monkeys in anyone's language. Former Premier League stars Steffen Iversen and Sami Hyypia are in action for Rosenborg and Bayer Leverkusen respectively, so you know. Nice.

2004: Another chance in the Ipswich-West Brom encounter, which is very entertaining so far, Giles Barnes toe-poking goalwards and forcing Brian Murphy into a smart stop.

2003: That Birmingham opener might have been against the run of play but do the Birmingham supporters care? Not a jot. Their team are visibly buoyed as well. Very lively.

2001: Back at Portman Road, Ipswich go ever so close to an opener through Jason Scotland, who strikes a neat pull-back from Tamas Priskin towards goal but sees his effort well saved by Boaz Myhill.

Birmingham goal: They've not scored in their last three meetings with Villa but it's first blood to Birmingham this time. Lee Bowyer is bundled to the ground by Richard Dunne, referee Chris Foy awards the penalty, and Sebastian Larsson slides it home.

1959: GOALFLASH Birmingham 1-0 Aston Villa (Larsson pen)


1956: ...until now, as Villa defender James Collins rises unmarked to Stewart Downing's corner unmarked, his goalbound header hacked away from inside the six-yard area by a covering Birmingham defender.

1955: Aston Villa shading the early stages at St Andrews with Gabriel Agbonlahor - back in the side after illness - looking especially lively. Bit slim on chances so far, though.

1953: By the way, with heavy snow having been shipped off the pitch at Portman Road, the line markings are for one night only (maybe)... blue. How very colourful.

Group A:
Man City
can only secure qualification if they win and Juventus fail to beat Poznan. If Juve win, they can secure qualification and eliminate City in the final round of games if Poznan also win on the final day. A Poznan win tonight sees them through.
Group B: If Leverkusen win, they qualify, a draw and they go through if Aris fail to beat Atletico. Atletico qualify if they win.
Group C: Sporting need a point to qualify. If Sporting win, Sofia or Gent can leapfrog Lille into pole position to go through with a win.
Group G: Zenit St Petersburg are already through and the second qualifying spot is certain to go down to the last round.
Group H: Stuttgart, already through, will win the group if they avoid a three-goal defeat to Young Boys.
Group I: If PSV draw they qualify, and Kharkiv will join them in the last 32 if they beat Debrecen. If PSV win, Kharkiv only need a draw.

1951: Settling down a touch at Portman Road now, while - as you might expect - is a tentative start at St Andrews as Birmingham and Villa feel each other out... so let's take this chance to look at some Europa League permutations shall we?

Saj Chowdhury reports:
"So Mario Balotelli and Jo start in attack for Man City, while fellow forward Emmanuel Adebayor is on the bench having recovered from a groin injury. Full-back Pablo Zabaleta returns from suspension, but there is no place in the squad for Yaya Toure or Carlos Tevez against Salzburg."

1948: And as we finally get up and running in the Birmingham-Aston Villa match, West Brom striker Marc-Antoine Fortune crashes in a shot at the near post at Portman Road, Brian Murphy turning it around the post in the Ipswich goal. Open start.

1946: Early opportunity for Ipswich as Tamas Priskin finds acres of space on the right and crosses for the onrushing David Norris who, six yards out, can only agonisingly watch on as the ball ricochets off his body and wide. Fine chance.

1945: We're up and running in the Ipswich-West Brom match.

1944: Refresh this bad boy, by the way, and radio links for tonight's two Carling Cup ties will magically appear on the right-hand side. Happy days.

1943: The teams are out and about at Portman Road and St Andrews - and the atmosphere at the latter is absolutely cooking. Bring. It. On.

garrethhawkins on Twitter: "re:BaggieM4TT: Well done Sam, ruining the poor lads dreams! Next you're gonna be telling him there's no such thing as Santa!"

Patrick_in_NY on 606: "I don't believe in jinxes but I have heard some famous last words."

Paul Fletcher reports:
"This game is Roy Keane's first quarter-final tie as a manager and boy, could he do with a win. His Ipswich side have lost their last four games, including Sunday's 4-1 humiliation at Norwich. It won't be easy against a West Brom outift that defeated Everton 4-1 on Saturday and sit an impressive 12th in the Premier League."

Chief football writer Phil McNulty reports:
"Birmingham City are hoping to account for rivals Aston Villa - as they did to win the League Cup Final in 1963 - as they go in search of only their second major trophy. Alex McLeish wants a wall of sound to greet Villa at St Andrew's, and the mood around the ground before kick-off suggests they will need little encouragement. Villa boss Gerard Houllier won this tournament twice with Liverpool, and victory here in front of a full house tonight will go some way towards convincing those supporters who still doubt his appointment."

Man City:
Given, Boateng, Toure, Lescott, Zabaleta, Wright-Phillips, Vieira, Milner, Adam Johnson, Balotelli, Jo. Subs: Hart, Richards, Adebayor, Kolarov, Barry, Silva, De Jong.
SV Red Bull Salzburg: Tremmel, Schiemer, Sekagya, Afolabi, Hinteregger, Mendes Da Silva, Hierlander, Leitgeb, Cziommer, Jantscher, Boghossian. Subs: Walke, Augustinussen, Zarate, Svento, Alan, Ngwat-Mahop, Offenbacher.
Referee: Libor Kovarik (Czech Rep)

cheese666 on 606: "Jinxes are rubbish? Nonsense Sam. I challenge you, when your team is 2-0 up, to stand up and shout 'Nothing can go wrong now!'"
And you think, if I did, I'd alter the result one way or the other? Blimey. I feel humbled by your faith in my powers... ;)

GraymeadYNWA on 606: "No Sam! Denying the existence of jinxing is he biggest jinx of them all!"

Paul Fletcher reports:
"Ipswich boss Roy Keane has a lengthy injury list to contend with and makes five changes from the team defeated 4-1 at Norwich, with Brian Murphy, Jaime Peters, Andros Townsend, Troy Brown and Reggie Lambie all coming into the starting XI. West Brom make nine changes from the team that defeated Everton on Saturday, with 18-year-old England international James Hurst making his senior debut. Marek Cech and Graham Dorrans are the two players who retain their places."

Murphy, Peters, Brown, Smith, O'Dea, Lambe, Leadbitter, Norris, Townsend, Priskin, Scotland. Subs: Lee-Barrett, O'Connor, Edwards, Eastman, Healy, Civelli, Murray.
West Brom: Myhill, Hurst, Meite, Pablo, Cech, Barnes, Reid, Dorrans, Tchoyi, Cox, Fortune. Subs: Carson, Morrison, Miller, Thomas, Tamas, Jara, Berahino.
Referee: Michael Jones (Cheshire)

Chief football writer Phil McNulty reports:
"Birmingham City make just one change from the draw at Fulham, with striker Nikola Zigic coming for Alexander Hleb. Aston Villa boss Gerard Houllier makes two adjustments to the side that lost 4-2 to Arsenal, with Gabriel Agbonlahor fit to come back after missing that game through illness. Acedemy product Jonathan Hogg comes in for Robert Pires."

Meerschaum_221B on 606: "Gerard Houlier would love to book a place in the Europa League via the League Cup. Big night for Villa. Expect them to attack hard and fast."

BaggieM4TT via text: "Good luck to James Hurst who's making his senior debut for West Brom tonight. Expecting an entertaining game with goals... have I jinxed it?"
No such thing as 'jinxes' pal, it's all rubbish.

1924: By the way, we think there is an error in the Birmingham team sent to us by the Press Association below, with Liam Ridgewell in the side and not Nathan Redmond.

Carlos Tevez is not even on the Man City bench, nor is Yaya Toure, while the likes of Mario Balotelli, Patrick Vieira and Jo all start.

kopman4 on 606: "Whatever people say about the League Cup, results like West Ham thrashing Man Utd and Northampton beating Liverpool, no one can say it is boring!"

Saj Chowdhury reports:
"If Manchester City beat Salzburg tonight and Lech Poznan defeat Juventus at home then City will qualify from Group A. Roberto Mancini's side have endured mixed fortunes in this competition, but surely they can't slip up against the bottom side? Even in these icy conditions!"

2010matt2010 on Twitter: "Birmingham 3-2 Villa. Ipswich 0-5 West Brom. Man City 2-2 Salzburg. I say no more."

5-1 and we didnt have ben arfa on 606: "Lets hope the second-city derby is a lot more entertaining than the league derby a month ago."

Foster, Carr, Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell, Larsson, Ferguson, Bowyer, Fahey, Jerome, Zigic. Subs: Taylor, Gardner, Derbyshire, Michel, Beausejour, Jiranek, Murphy.
Aston Villa: Friedel, Luke Young, Dunne, Collins, Warnock, Ashley Young, Clark, Hogg, Bannan, Downing, Agbonlahor. Subs: Guzan, Pires, Ireland, Carew, Delfouneso, Cuellar, Lichaj.
Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)

1911: And, before I forget, the Carling Cup semi-final draw is expected to follow tonight matches. The question is - who is going to join Arsenal and West Ham in the last four?

Mr Chelsea on 606: "The Carling Cup is more exciting than the FA Cup. You all know it."

Carpcron on Twitter: "Full strength teams for Birmingham/Villa, Carling cup must mean a lot to 'em - that or, beating the other one does."

1908: As always, then, this is your time to shine. Tweet me @sampatricklyon, get chatting over on 606, or text me via 81111. I already fancy some of you will have missed the 'humour' - such as it was - at my comparing a World Cup to the Europa League and Carling Cup so I look forward to your missives pointing out how big a competition those two are. This is a big night of football... right?

1905: Now, all jokes aside, tonight could be a massive one for our quintet of English teams in action. Man City, for example, could go a long way to securing qualification for the knockout stages of the Europa League, while for the others a semi-final spot in a major domestic cup is never something to scoff at no matter how lofty you consider your club's ambitions to be - Arsenal, for one, will testify to that this season. So put you feet up, wrap up warm, and settle in for a top night of football... I fancy it'll be a big 'un.

1903: And, talking of the biggest and best in football talent, we've only got the penultimate round of Europa League group matches and a couple Carling Cup quarter-finals tonight haven't we? Oi - pipe down at the back - no scoffing please. Yep, forget Brazil, Argentina, Spain et al - we've got Birmingham, Aston Villa, Ipswich and West Brom. And the Netherlands, Germany and England? Pah. Step forward Manchester City and, erm, Red Bull Salzburg. It, almost quite literally (but not quite at the end of the day) doesn't get bigger than this.

1900: So, in less than 24 hours we will know if England have been chosen as the hosts for the 2018 Fifa World Cup. Can you imagine how amazing that would be? Arguably the greatest sporting tournament in the world, hosted on this fair isle... the biggest and best in football talent on our doorstep. Think positive, people...

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Carling Cup results

1 Dec 2010 23:59 UK

Europa Group A table snapshot

As it stood on 1 Dec 2010 23:59 UK

Position Team P GD PTS
1 Man City 5 5 10
2 Lech Poznan 5 2 8
3 Juventus 5 0 5
4 SV Salzburg 5 -7 2

Europa Group B table snapshot

As it stood on 1 Dec 2010 23:59 UK

Position Team P GD PTS
1 Bayer Leverkusen 5 6 11
2 Atletico Madrid 5 2 7
3 Aris Salonika 5 0 7
4 Rosenborg 5 -8 3

Europa Group C table snapshot

As it stood on 1 Dec 2010 23:59 UK

Position Team P GD PTS
1 Sporting 5 9 12
2 AA Gent 5 -2 7
3 Lille 5 -1 5
4 Levski Sofia 5 -6 4

Europa Group D table snapshot

As it stood on 1 Dec 2010 23:59 UK

Position Team P GD PTS
1 Dinamo Zagreb 4 3 7
2 PAOK Salonika 4 1 7
3 Villarreal 4 -1 6
4 Club Bruges 4 -3 2

Europa Group E table snapshot

As it stood on 1 Dec 2010 23:59 UK

Position Team P GD PTS
1 BATE Borisov 4 6 10
2 Dynamo Kiev 4 1 7
3 FC Sheriff Tiraspol 4 -2 3
4 AZ Alkmaar 4 -5 3

Europa Group F table snapshot

As it stood on 1 Dec 2010 23:59 UK

Position Team P GD PTS
1 CSKA Moscow 4 11 12
2 Sparta Prague 4 0 7
3 Palermo 4 -5 3
4 Lausanne Sports 4 -6 1

Europa Group G table snapshot

As it stood on 1 Dec 2010 23:59 UK

Position Team P GD PTS
1 Zenit St P'sbg 5 9 15
2 AEK Athens 5 -1 7
3 Anderlecht 5 -2 4
4 Hajduk Split 5 -6 3

Europa Group H table snapshot

As it stood on 1 Dec 2010 23:59 UK

Position Team P GD PTS
1 VfB Stuttgart 5 6 12
2 Young Boys 5 1 9
3 Odense BK 5 -2 4
4 Getafe 5 -5 4

Europa Group I table snapshot

As it stood on 1 Dec 2010 23:59 UK

Position Team P GD PTS
1 PSV Eindhoven 5 7 13
2 FC Metalist Kharkiv 5 5 10
3 Sampdoria 5 -1 5
4 Debrecen 5 -11 0

Europa Group J table snapshot

As it stood on 1 Dec 2010 23:59 UK

Position Team P GD PTS
1 Sevilla 4 5 9
2 Paris SG 4 3 8
3 Borussia Dortmund 4 0 5
4 Karpaty Lviv 4 -8 0

Europa Group K table snapshot

As it stood on 1 Dec 2010 23:59 UK

Position Team P GD PTS
1 Liverpool 4 5 8
2 Steaua Bucharest 4 -1 5
3 Napoli 4 -2 3
4 FC Utrecht 4 -2 3

Europa Group L table snapshot

As it stood on 1 Dec 2010 23:59 UK

Position Team P GD PTS
1 FC Porto 4 6 10
2 Besiktas 4 0 7
3 Rapid Vienna 4 -3 3
4 CSKA Sofia 4 -3 3

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