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Aston Villa
February 27, 2009
Posted by Jerrad Peters on 02/27/2009

Martin O'Neill got his tactics exactly right. Instead of making an arrogant attempt to win a European competition with a threadbare squad, the Aston Villa manager left eight regulars at home for the club's UEFA Cup Round of 32 second-leg in Moscow on Thursday.

While the strategy cost his side thier place in the competition, it consolidated Villa's prospects in the Premier League. It really wasn't a difficult decision at all. Each of Gabriel Agbonlahor, Gareth Barry, Carlos Cuellar, Brad Friedel, Emile Heskey, James Milner, Stiliyan Petrov and Ashley Young will now be fit and fresh for the visit of Stoke City on Sunday and the trip to Eastlands on Wednesday.

February 19, 2009
Posted by Jerrad Peters on 02/19/2009

John Carew’s 69th minute equalizer sends Aston Villa to Moscow with an outside chance of progressing in the UEFA Cup. The big 29-year-old cancelled Vagner Love’s opener after he ran onto Craig Gardener’s pass following some good work from Gareth Barry.

Visiting CSKA Moscow were fortunate to hang on in the end, as the hosts missed a hatful of chances in the closing moments.

February 18, 2009
Posted by Jerrad Peters on 02/18/2009

Aston Villa’s Champions’ League ambitions were bolstered, Sunday, when Everton knocked them out of the FA Cup at Goodison Park. Leading fifth-place Arsenal by seven points with 13 Premier League rounds to play, the last thing Villa needed was an additional competition to extend an already threadbare squad. Had they defeated Everton, they would have added an eighth match to an already jam-packed three-week period.

That said, it’s never nice to be eliminated from anything, no matter the competition. But given that Sunday’s substitutes included Shane Lowry, Nathan Delfouneso, Moustapha Salifou and Marc Albrighton, Martin O’Neill won’t be losing any sleep over the Wembley trip that might have been.

January 17, 2009
Posted by Jerrad Peters on 01/17/2009

I received an email from a reader shortly after the UEFA Cup draw had been performed in Nyon. It was a one-liner. ..CSKA are a very good team. Good challenge for Villa...

Good challenge, indeed. Impossible challenge? Maybe. Russian teams have excelled in this tournament for several years. And for good reason. The Russian Premier League has become one of the top divisions on the continent. According to UEFA..s latest ranking, it..s the sixth-best competition in European football. It outshines the leagues in Portugal, Scotland and Holland. If it keeps improving at the present rate, it will surpass the Bundesliga by summertime.

CSKA Moscow finished runners-up to champions Rubin Kazan in the recently completed domestic season. They kept a tight defense, allowing just 24 goals in 30 rounds while scoring 53, second only to Zenit St. Petersburg. Man for man, they match up well against Aston Villa. While Martin O..Neill will be viewing CSKA as a ..challenge,.. his counterpart, former Brazil international Zico, will see Villa as a team the Russians should beat.

Kevin Hughes Kevin Hughes spent the best part of ten years working and writing for the football magazine Match; once (sort of) inspiring David Beckham to copy his shaved-hair look, getting lost in Paris after the 1998 France v Croatia World Cup semi-final and other such nonsense. As Deputy Editor, he launched and established Sport, the London-based free weekly magazine, before moving on to become a consumer magazine publisher, a position he holds today. Introduced to Villa by his father and grandfather, he attended his first ever match at Villa Park as a seven-year-old in 1982… and has suffered almost constant disappointment since. You can follow him on twitter @KevHughesie

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