Lambert geared for cup exorcise
Paul Lambert insists Aston Villa are a different football club now from the one which made an embarrassing Capital One Cup semi-final exit to Bradford seven months ago.
Villa were firm favourites to book a place in last season's Wembley final, but it was the lower league Bantams who progressed 4-3 on aggregate, while the struggling midlands club were left to stave off the threat of relegation from the Barclays Premier League.
But Lambert, boosted by six new faces this summer and the retention of star striker Christian Benteke, has watched a new-look Villa emerge over the early part of this term.
Albeit still youthful, Lambert's side have shown positive signs of maturity and development in their first three games of the new league season, and the Scot is adamant they are a different animal as they prepare to face Sky Bet League One outfit Rotherham in this year's Capital One Cup second-round tie.
Lambert said: "The disappointment after the Bradford game was huge for us.
"Everyone thought when we drew Bradford it was a foregone conclusion that we were just going to go through. We played ever so well in the rounds leading up to that - we went to Manchester City, Norwich and Swindon and won.
"Then we had two legs in the semi-final and got beat, on top of the league games we were losing, there was a lot of pressure, but credit to the team as they turned it around and the last three or four months of the season they were excellent.
"I don't know if it's about exorcising ghosts, there's a different feeling in the football club this time, totally different.
"The players are different, a different mindset, new lads have come in, some lads have left. We needed to freshen it up, but there's a totally different mindset altogether now."
Five-time winners Villa have a great tradition in the competition, with their maiden success coming in the first-ever League Cup final of 1961 in which they defeated Wednesday's opponents Rotherham.
They have reached at least the quarter-finals in three of the last four years, while they have not exited in the second round since 1991.
But Lambert will not underestimate the Millers - unbeaten so far this term - and knows all too well what it is like to be in their position having caused giant-killings of his own during his previous time in charge of Wycombe.
"I won't treat the tie lightly, that's for sure, if you're in something you're in it to try and win it," he said.
"We'll respect Rotherham and Steve (Evans, boss) but we're at home and we've started the season well, we want to try and get through.
"I know it's going to be hard. A smaller team coming to a big club with the atmosphere and the pitch, it raises everybody. You give Rotherham respect but the onus is on us to get through."
Lambert has vowed to send out a strong side for the tie but defenders Nathan Baker (ankle) and Antonio Luna (knock) are both doubts while Charles N'Zogbia (Achilles) remains a long-term absentee.
Meanwhile, the Villa boss has admitted he does not anticipate huge business at the club between now and the summer transfer window closing next Monday but has not ruled new signings out completely.
Rotherham manager Steve Evans believes his side can deliver a Capital One Cup shock.
The Millers, unbeaten in Sky Bet League One, visit Villa Park for a repeat of the first-ever League Cup final, having already dumped out higher-placed opposition in this season's competition.
Local rivals Sheffield Wednesday were on the receiving end in the first round and Evans, who has a superb track record of cup upsets stretching back to his time at Crawley, is on the hunt again.
"We will need every player to be at their best and we know we need Aston Villa to have an off night," he said.
"We will be in their faces all over the pitch and hopefully they won't be ready for that.
"Some people ordered a straight jacket for me when I said Crawley could beat Manchester United at Old Trafford and we nearly did.
"I think we have got an even better chance this time. We have better players, a better system, better everything. I believe it can happen. But we have to have a top, top night.
"If you have got belief and do your homework and then get the best out of your players and you never know what can happen.
"One of three things will happen. They will win and no one will blink, it will be a dull game that they edge through or there will be a sensational cup upset. I believe that it can be the third one."