Even a Cup tie against a lower-level side will probably prove to be difficult for Paul Lambert and Aston Villa.
It would be awful, wouldn't it, for Aston Villa to beat Manchester City in the League Cup only to fall to League One side Swindon Town? Normally, the thought of traveling for a tie against a club sitting two divisions below wouldn't cause fear and trembling in the hearts of Villa supporters. But the Villa are sitting precariously close the the relegation zone, have picked up just one league win since the season began, and have one point from their last three fixtures. If there's ever a side in need of a shot of confidence, it's this one.
But Swindon, or Paolo Di Canio at least, are not hurting for confidence. The manager is all set to complete another "giant" killing -- if you can call beating Villa slaying a giant -- and seems convinced that his side will easily sweep aside the visitors. Last year's League Two winners are performing fairly well in the higher division, currently tied for sixth with Notts County. The Robins just beat Stevenage, who are fourth, away 4-0. Matt Ritchie already has six goals for Swindon. While the number of goals in the lower leagues is usually higher, and they've also played five more matches than Premier League sides, it's a bit worrying to realize that the competition has four players with more goals than Darren Bent or Christian Benteke.
So while Villa lucked out but not drawing Chelsea or Tottenham Hotspur, the path to victory will likely not be smooth. From Paul Lambert's comments, it appears he's ready to go all out tonight, and won't be using a weaker squad against a lower-level side. No big deal, as the players will have plenty of time to rest before Saturday's match at Sunderland.
The biggest question is likely to be, who will start up front? Will it be Darren Bent or Christian Benteke? I'd say the nod goes to Benteke after he scored against Norwich, and it's almost certain Lambert won't use the two together. Even if the side won't be a weak one, it'd still be nice to use this as an opportunity to see what Andi Weimann can do paired with one of these two -- his positioning and movement looked good for the few minutes we saw him on Saturday. Alas, this match is likely now too important for that.
There's still a problem in defense, with Nathan Baker and Ciaran Clark both out with injury, and Richard Dunne apparently dead. Joe Bennett's red card carries over to this match, so expect to see Eric Lichaj again, and probably Chris Herd back at center-back. Villa are also missing Charles N'Zogbia after he damaged his knee in training last week, so don't expect to see him come off the bench.