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Page last updated at 16:15 GMT, Monday, 4 January 2010

O'Neill wary of Blackburn ahead of Carling Cup semi

Carling Cup semi-final, first leg
Venue: Ewood Park Date: Tuesday, 5 January 2010 Kick-off: 2000 GMT
Coverage: BBC Sport website, BBC Radio 5 live, BBC local radio, live on Sky Sports 1 & highlights on The League Cup Show


O'Neill calls on Villa to seize their chance

Martin O'Neill insists his Aston Villa side do not have an edge over Blackburn for the Carling Cup semi-final despite beating them in the FA Cup on Saturday.

Villa beat Rovers 3-1 in their FA Cup third round match at the weekend ahead of Tuesday's first leg at Ewood Park.

However, Rovers boss Sam Allardyce fielded a weakened team at Villa Park and is focusing on the League Cup tie.

"It's a different competition, different matches and a different set of circumstances," said O'Neill.

"It won't do us any harm winning the game and it is better to have won than lost. It was good for confidence and that's important."

O'Neill made seven changes of his own for Saturday's match and is clearly taking the Carling Cup as seriously as his Blackburn counterpart.

BBC Sport trail

Carling Cup semi-finals trail

Midfielder's James Milner and Fabian Delph are doubts because of a foot injury and illness respectively, but the likes of Gabriel Agbonlahor, Richard Dunne and skipper Stiliyan Petrov are poised to return.

"We've got a big semi-final to look forward to now," he said. "Everyone is talking about it. Blackburn are saying it's their biggest game for a long, long time.

"There are two games to be played and every single minute in these matches will be vital."

Blackburn manager Allardyce made nine changes to his side for the match at Villa Park but is expected to revert to his full-strength side for Tuesday's match, minus suspended forward El-Hadji Diouf and midfielder Vince Grella, who has a thigh injury.

Allardyce, 55, is keen for the opportunity to add a Wembley appearance to his list of managerial achievements and for his players to experience a final.

Dunne senses 'excitement' around Villa

"I've only been here for a year and were competing to go to one of the major finals in this country," he said.

"Getting there would be one major achievement for my CV. As a manager I would love to go to Wembley and walk my team out at a major final.

"I've been to the new Wembley and experienced the atmosphere and I'm sure we'd all like to go and experience that if we can.

"We've got to make sure we produce our best two performances of the season against Aston Villa if we want to get there."


The first leg will be played at Ewood Park with the second leg at Villa Park on Wednesday 20 January.

Allardyce feels that a partisan home crowd on Tuesday will be key to his side's chances of success.

"They (the fans) are going to determine whether we get there or not," he admitted.

"If we haven't got them cheering us on, particularly as they did in the second half against Sunderland (on 28 December) when we weren't playing so well; it was their help that lifted us to get a draw.

"It makes a huge difference to the players and the way that they play."

'Massive task' against Villa - Allardyce

Blackburn booked their semi-final spot with a 4-3 penalty shoot-out win over Chelsea in the quarter-final, which Allardyce missed as he recovered from heart surgery.

Whilst saddened to miss what was an atmospheric occasion at Ewood Park, he appealed to his players to make sure they draw on their efforts that night and ensure they are not in vain.

"It is important not to waste the huge effort they (the players) gave against the top side in this country at this moment in time.

"Managing to get through in such circumstances - normal time, extra time and then penalties - what a magnificent night that must have been, but I know the lads have still got that feeling inside of them."

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see also
Blackburn P-P Aston Villa
05 Jan 10 |  League Cup
Aston Villa 3-1 Blackburn
02 Jan 10 |  FA Cup
Blackburn 3-3 Chelsea
02 Dec 09 |  League Cup
Portsmouth 2-4 Aston Villa
01 Dec 09 |  League Cup

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