Vassell takes on Villa for first time since City move

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The Independent Football

Darius Vassell's decade at the Midlands club ended with his £2m summer move to Manchester City where he has put his stalling career back on track with three goals so far this term.

Olof Mellberg, Villa's captain at the City of Manchester Stadium, said: "Maybe it didn't look like he was going to play all the time for Villa this season, as the manager [David O'Leary] signed new players."

Mellberg believes Vassell will get a good reception from Villa fans and thinks he will regain his England place if he maintains his current form under the City manager, Stuart Pearce. "He had a good relationship with the fans and with all of the players and the club. I don't think there will be any hard feelings.

"In a World Cup year you have to play regularly. Darius could still be in the squad for next summer. He hasn't been out of the national side that long. If he continues to have a good season for Manchester City he will have a good chance."

The Villa defender Aaron Hughes is expected to return after he missed the 1-0 Carling Cup triumph over Burnley because of a slight groin problem.

Pearce must wait on the fitness of Andy Cole - Vassell's strike partner has a groin problem - but the midfielder Claudio Reyna is a definite absentee.

Joey Barton is likely to move back into a central position alongside the youngster Stephen Ireland, with Lee Croft, another product of City's academy possibly taking the vacant position on the right.