Birmingham City v Aston Villa- Carling Cup Preview

Last updated : 01 December 2010 By DSG





McLeish was present eight years ago for the first derby after Blues return to the top flight and remembers the passion of the home fans in a 3-0 triumph over Villa.







The former Scotland boss is not advocating any over-the-top support which spills over into unpleasantness or violence but is aware the fans have a key role to play.





McLeish said: "We are looking at the fans to be at their best, what we've seen with the history of Blues fans, not only in this game but in general.





"The reputation they've gained over the years is being hostile, volatile but not in a nasty way. We are looking to our fans to give the players the energy to help them to victory.





"But I think the bitterness in derbies is what no-one likes to see."




It will be the first Birmingham-Villa derby played in the evening since the violence which surrounded the meetings at St Andrew's and Villa Park in 2002-03.





McLeish said: "We would like to have the banter, the friendly rivalry. That's not going to be possible in certain quarters, I'm sure, but you do look for that.





"I've met Birmingham and Villa fans that co-habit, husband and wife, different parts of families, and the banter in these households must be great.





"I am sure it is not bitter so why can't they exist together in friendly terms - but with the same rivalry that is important in any derby in the world?"





Blues midfielder Craig Gardner could return to face his former club. Gardner will have a late fitness test on the ankle injury which sidelined him for the 1-0 win over Chelsea and the 1-1 draw with Fulham.





He could be a straight replacement for Alexander Hleb who has been ruled out of the derby clash with a hamstring injury, with McLeish confirming he will field a stronger line-up than in the previous rounds.





Gabriel Agbonlahor will return to the Aston Villa side.

The striker missed the 4-2 defeat by Arsenal on Saturday with an illness but has recovered and will be in contention for the Second City encounter.





Defender James Collins is fit after a knock but midfielder Stephen Ireland has a sickness bug of his own and will not play.





Youngster Marc Albrighton is missing after having his appendix out and Nigel Reo-Coker, Steve Sidwell, Emile Heskey and Stiliyan Petrov remain sidelined.





Villa manager Gerard Houllier has warned his team not to let the occasion get to them, claiming the team who keeps their cool will win.





Villa, who lost to Manchester United in the final of the competition last season, go into the game in far from impressive form with back-to-back Premier League defeats to Blackburn and Arsenal having seen them slip below their rivals in the table.





"We must remain extremely focused on the football side," Houllier said.





"One of the key weapons in games like this is your composure and your control. That goes for both teams. In football, we know that provocation is never punished, it's always retaliation which is punished.





"We have to make sure that if we are being provoked, we've got the nerve to stand up to the situation and not react."





The Frenchman also claimed both sets of fans had a responsibility to ensure the game passes without incident off the pitch.





"I hope it remains a game of football," he said.





"I have heard so many things about the fact that the fans could be heated and that there would be problems."





But he added: "I can only control the team, I can't control the fans. I hope they can control themselves."





The two sides ground out a goalless draw at Villa Park in their league meeting at the end of October and Houllier is expecting another spirited encounter.





"What I want, and I'm sure that (Birmingham boss) Alex (McLeish) would wish the same thing, is that the two teams compete in a very good spirit. To me, that's the main thing," he said.




"We have a duty to promote football and to set an example to kids. It's a game which is on TV, and it's a derby, but more importantly, it's a game of football, and a game of football must be played with football arguments and nothing else."

Source: DSG

Source: DSG