Holden's return gives Bolton a timely boost


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Owen Coyle is hoping the return of Stuart Holden can help Bolton put a poor run of form in the Premier League behind them when they take on Aston Villa in the Carling Cup tonight. The midfielder will make his first appearance since sustaining a serious knee injury in a match against Manchester United last March.

Coyle, who led his side to the FA Cup semi-finals last season, said: "We love the cup and we love progressing as far as we can in any competition. We'll still make changes because we had players sitting on the bench on Saturday who need some game time. Stuart Holden will start, which is another boost, and we'll see how far he's progressed. We have to make sure there's freshness and energy."

Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish will check on the fitness of three key players ahead of the game at Villa Park.

Record signing Darren Bent (groin), defender Stephen Warnock (hip) and captain Stiliyan Petrov (ankle) were injured during the weekend draw with Newcastle. McLeish intends to play his strongest available team but Stephen Ireland and Marc Albrighton could come into contention if the manager is forced into changes.

As well as Holden, this week's Carling Cup could see the return to action of two other long-term injury casualties. Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard could end six months on the sidelines after a groin operation in March with an appearance in tomorrow's tie at Brighton. And Owen Hargreaves is in line to make his Manchester City debut against holders Birmingham City, although he is not expected to play the whole match.