Aston Villa is in much bigger trouble than a trip to Wembley and a crack at England's third most prestigious trophy could solve, but the boost to morale and ability to overcome adversity could be crucial in getting things back on the right track.
There's little sense in reliving the first leg of the League Cup semifinal at Valley Parade. Aston Villa was unable to convert a barrow-load of chances, Bradford City didn't have the same problem where set pieces were concerned, and things now stand at 3-1 heading into the second leg. It's not a good situation for Aston Villa to say the very least, but it's a situation this team should be expected to be capable of overcoming. But being capable of something isn't nearly the same thing as actually managing to do it, and Villa has managed to make something of a habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory this season. So why should anyone believe that they're capable of battling back from the brink?
It's a fair question. And realistically, it's quite valid to believe that Villa isn't capable of doing what needs to be done against Bradford City to book a trip to the cup final. This isn't a team that's done much to inspire their supporters, and between their leaky back line and impotent attack it's fair to see why there would be a lack of confidence in their ability to come back from a two goal deficit. This is the third straight year that Aston Villa has taken a step back. Spirits aren't all that high, to say the least, and it isn't as though anyone is being unfair in pointing out that things are as bad as they've been in a very long time.
Still, it's important to take a step back from time to time, and this is definitely one of those occasions. Yes, being down two goals is less than ideal, and yes, this has been a miserable season in nearly every sense of the word. Without taking away any of the credit due to the Bantams, Aston Villa is unlucky to be heading into the second leg of the tie. Matt Duke put in an incredible performance, making 12 saves (including several of the world-class variety) and Aston Villa's defensive organization and form in general has been much improved in the weeks since the first leg. If Villa can perform as well out of the gate today as they did out of the gate against West Brom, things could easily be back on equal footing by the half-hour mark.
That's not to say things are a given, or that Bradford City haven't earned their two-goal advantage or their current standing as favorites to go through to Wembley. But this isn't as big a hill to climb as it's being made out by some. Winning this game and moving on to the final is an achievable goal. It's reasonable to have doubts that this team is capable of pulling it off, but what isn't reasonable is for them to believe that they won't. How the players go after this game will be telling. If they look like they believe they're going to win, that could mean good things the rest of the way should they manage to do so. But if they look like they've resigned themselves to defeat after running into a hint of adversity, the worries about the rest of the season will only mount.