Unpleasant as conditions may be for training today, Aston Villa and Bradford City will both be keen to work on different aspects of the same phase of play ahead of tomorrow night's Capital One Cup semi-final second leg. In the first match at Valley Parade all three City goals in a stunning 3-1 victory were headers and, after conceding a late equaliser from a corner in Saturday's riveting 2-2 draw at West Bromwich Albion, Paul Lambert knows that his side have to tighten up.
They were denied a first Premier League victory in six games when the otherwise impressive Christian Benteke left Gareth McAuley free to nod down a corner for Peter Odemwingie to volley in, leaving their manager exasperated.
"It's a bog-standard ball in the box." he said. "It's not rocket science. We go man for man, and if it's your man that scores then we know who was to pick him up. It's you against your opponent, and you've got to go and put your head on it."
The rave reviews for Villa's youngsters after they won in quick succession at Norwich City and Liverpool before Christmas proved premature and they have struggled ever since, dropping to the fringes of the relegation zone. Disappointment at dropping two points to their oldest rivals aside, there was encouragement to be taken from their first-half performance. It brought excellent strikes and a two-goal lead from Benteke and then Gabriel Agbonlahor, plus an all-too-rare demonstration of Charles N'Zogbia's talents.
"The players will be down but they know they really played well," Lambert said. "It's a matter of trying to replicate that first-half performance and I'm pretty sure they will. The crowd will be unbelievable on Tuesday and will drive us on, that's for sure. You have to get there [to Wembley] and it'll be a great achievement if we can manage to do it, a fantastic occasion for everybody at the club."
Albion's manager, Steve Clarke, who gave his players a verbal blast at half-time, confirmed that neither Odemwingie, Jonas Olsson nor any other player will be leaving The Hawthorns during the January transfer window.
Goals: West Brom Brunt 49, Odemwingie 84. Aston Villa Benteke 12, Agbonlahor 31. Substitutions: West Brom Thomas 7 (Yacob, 36), Rosenberg (Dorrans, 82), Thorne (Brunt, 90+4). Aston Villa Lichaj 6 (Baker, 5), Bannan 5 (Delph, 53), Holman 5 (N'Zogbia, 67). Bookings: West Brom Olsson, Lukaku, Dorrans. Aston Villa Agbonlahor, Lichaj, Lowton. Man of the match Agbonlahor. Match rating 8/10. Possession: West Brom 57%. Aston Villa 43%. Attempts on target: West Brom 6. Aston Villa 6. Referee L Probert (Wiltshire). Attendance 25,583.