Could Nathan Delfouneso start against Birmingham City on Wednesday? God, I hope so. (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images)
You'll have to pardon me, dear readers. Not only for my two week absence (provided you noticed), but because as I write this post, I am still basking in what the great Brian Phillips called "the apotheosis of this Barcelona era," that marvelous match at the Camp Nou on Monday night. The warm glow within me has erased nearly all memory of that depressing loss to Arsenal at the weekend, but it's left me to ponder a thing or two about Villa and our upcoming fixture in the Carling Cup. You know the one. Against that club. But more on that later.I don't think most of us really expect a great result against Arsenal, even under the best of circumstances. Last weekend was clearly not the best of circumstances. From a swollen injury list to a obviously unfit front pairing (Old Man Pires and the Ghost of John Carew), I would have had a hard time backing our chances to win against any Premiership side, much less one contending for the top spot in the league. However, the thing that scared me the most about Arsenal was their momentum. The previous week had seen them collapse in the second half at home against Tottenham and lose 2-0 to Braga in their midweek Champions League fixture. When a team like Arsenal hits a bad run of form, you just know that some unfortunate team is going to face their wrath. It happened when Manchester City emerged from a bleak patch of 0-0 draws to put four past Fulham, and you can see it coming with Chelsea as well. So good news: I think we're going to absolutely destroy Birmingham City on Wednesday. We've had a rough go of it over the last couple weeks, but we've shown flashes of our capability to play excellent football.
Here's the other reason I think we beat Birmingham City: it's a cup match. The knock-out nature of cup matches dictates that teams have to play to win, because a draw will do you no good. And if Birmingham City is good at anything (and they aren't), it's that they are really good at not losing games. Alex McLeish has imbued Birmingham City with a sternly Scottish approach to defending, and Ben Foster has proved himself to be a decent keeper. But their offense is relatively pathetic, and I say that as a supporter of a team that recently escaped an agonizing scoring drought. Cameron Jerome is a striker of some repute, but after that, there's not a lot going on. They have Villa reject Craig Gardner in midfield, and summer signing Nikola Zigic has been a disappointment. After that, all they can hope for is a header from a corner or some grevious defensive error (which, to be fair, we have a seemingly endless supply of.) But I have enough faith in our attackers that I think we'll be able to put a lot of goals past Birmingham. Looking at their record, three goals seems to be enough to beat Birmingham, so I'll go with a 3-1 scoreline to Villa, after which we'll likely get drawn against Arsenal or something and be absolutely screwed.