Aside from cup wins over Wigan Athletic (twice) and Internazionale, Villa have not recorded a victory since 10 September. Middlesbrough have themselves gone five matches without a win. To reverse that poor form, Alan Moore is likely to recalled in place of the Bolivian forward, Jaime Moreno, while the former Aston Villa defender, Neil Cox, is relishing the chance to prove a point to the his former manager, Ron Atkinson.
'With the money they have spent in the last three years, Villa have to win something,' said Cox, who made an appearance as substitute at Wembley before his pounds 1m transfer this summer. 'Yet they are struggling in the league and suffered another bad home defeat last weekend. We should have won at Portsmouth on Sunday but we can go to Villa Park and enjoy ourselves and let them do the worrying.'
Kevin Richardson is again left out by Atkinson, who named the weekend substitutes, Garry Parker and Guy Whittingham, in the staring line-up in place of Phil King and Graham Fenton. Atkinson has Mark Bosnich available again after a cold while the Ghanaian, Nii Lamptey looks certain to be among the substitutes after returning from international duty.
Arsenal are set to take on Oldham without three of their key players. Ian Wright, Tony Adams and Paul Merson are all injured - a result of the Highbury club's punishing schedule, lamented the Arsenal manager, George Graham.
'The amount of matches we've had has caught up with us. You can ask players to turn out when they are injured, but I do not want to take chances in a knock-out match. We've just got to go up there and keep it very tight,' he said.
Chelsea also face injury problems in the all-London tie at West Ham. Once again, Graham Rix, the club's youth team coach, could be in a squad shorn of 12 senior players. Paul Furlong is the latest Chelsea player to be sidelined after he pulled a hamstring against Ipswich on Sunday, but Jakob Kjeldbjerg could recover from an ankle injury.
West Ham's John Moncur misses his second successive game with a virus but the manager, Harry Redknapp, can still call on Matthew Rush who dismantled Southampton on Saturday by making the first goal and scoring the second in the 2-0 win. Redknapp said: 'He's looking a different player to last year when I first came here. He's quick, strong and now he's working at his game he looks a real talent.'
The Portsmouth manager, Jim Smith, having heaped yet more pressure on Mike Walker when his team beat Everton in the last round, could now do the same to Roy McFarland in the home tie with Derby. Smith is more concerned with Pompey's pulling power, however. Only 7,200 watched their goalless draw with Middlesbrough on Sunday. 'We did not do ourselves justice but this tie is another chance for us to show we are a half-decent team worth watching,' Smith said.
Brighton, who also overturned Premiership opposition in the last round with a win over Leicester, need to improve recent league form to defeat First Division Swindon at the Goldstone Ground.
The division's leaders, Wolves, may be without their winger, Tony Daley, for their third-round fixture with Nottingham Forest at Molineux. The former England international, who cost pounds 1.3m from Aston Villa, suffered a reaction to his knee injury after making his league debut for Wolves on Saturday.Reuse content