Football: Di Canio faces axe as the red mist settles

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The Independent Online
The Blackburn manager, Roy Hodgson, expects the "toughest possible test" when his side tackles Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough in tonight's FA Cup fourth-round tie.

The Blackburn manager believes his team's 7-2 victory over Wednesday at Ewood Park in August and the goalless draw in the return on Boxing Day will have no bearing on the outcome of the clash.

"I would have liked an easier draw and it's always a shame that in the early rounds the Premiership teams get thrown together," Hodgson said. "We have not had a lot of success in the competition of late and it was obviously disappointing for everyone last season when we went out in a similar situation at home to Coventry."

Hodgson is missing the midfielder Garry Flitcroft, but has the Scottish international Billy McKinlay as a ready-made replacement. Gary Croft, Lars Bohinen and Martin Dahlin are also out with long-term injuries.

The Sheffield Wednesday striker Paolo di Canio is determined to follow compatriots Fabrizio Ravanelli, Gianfranco Zola and Roberto di Matteo to Wembley after watching the trio play in last year's FA Cup final.

But Di Canio knows he must first repay his team-mates after they rescued him from his red-card shame in the third-round replay win over Watford. And after an uncharacteristically poor display in the Yorkshire derby win over Leeds last weekend, with Di Canio a virtual passenger despite Atkinson's demand he take over the driving seat, the Italian knows he needs to turn on the style.

"I want to forget about all the bad situations that have happened to me," he said. "I just want to concentrate solely on the future and help the team by getting them through to the next round."

There is no guarantee, however, that Di Canio will even be in the starting line-up with the return of his compatriot Benito Carbone after serving a two-match suspension.

It would be a major surprise if Atkinson did swing the axe, but it is an option he is considering. "I'm happy we've got the added dimension of Beni being back in the frame," Atkinson said. "Circumstances may well dictate who will play because after tonight's game Di Canio is unavailable due to his misdemeanour in the match against Watford."

Atkinson's only injury doubt is the Swedish international Niclas Alexandersson, who has an ankle problem.