BRADFORD V ASTON VILLA
Follow all the action as Bradford host Premier League outfit Aston Villa in the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final
Parkinson wants to make a statement
Bradford manager Phil Parkinson is hoping the Capital One Cup semi-final clash with Aston Villa will remind the nation that the West Yorkshire club are on their way back up.
The spotlight shone brightly on the Bantams during one of their finest hours last month when the 110-year-old npower League Two club stunned Arsenal in a thrilling penalty shoot-out triumph in the quarter-finals.
It has been a long 13 years since Bradford escaped relegation on the final day of the 1999/2000 season to survive a second campaign in the Premier League after a famous 1-0 home win over Liverpool.
The Bantams were relegated the following season and then followed a calamitous slide into administration (twice) and English football's basement division. From top to bottom in seven forgettable seasons.
But not only were mighty Arsenal conquered in the previous round, top-flight Wigan also succumbed to Parkinson's penalty shoot-out kings, while Gianfranco Zola's Watford were undone by two late goals at Vicarage Road in round two and the former Colchester, Hull and Charlton manager wants to give the whole city something to cheer again.
"That's really important for us," said Parkinson, 45. "It's a big club, a sleeping giant and we're trying to reawaken it.
"The win against Arsenal certainly reminded everybody that Bradford City is up and running and starting to get going again. Another really good performance would be great for the city again."
The Bradford manager accepts a two-legged tie favours Paul Lambert's Villa, but knows what it takes to beat Premier League opposition.
"We've just shown the lads some footage from the Arsenal game, to remind them of the discipline and the shape of the team and how well we worked as a unit in that game," he said.
"But also, when we won the ball back we played with a calmness and that's important because we know that if you keep giving Premier League teams the ball back, it becomes a long night.
"We've got to be up for the game, committed, we've got to use the crowd to take us on to another level, but also we've got to play with that composure and calmness in possession."
Bradford winger Kyel Reid and defender Carl McHugh could return to the starting line-up.
Reid, who returned from a two-and-a-half week lay-off due to a groin injury in mid-December, has been used sparingly by Parkinson in recent weeks, while McHugh returned to the substitutes' bench in Saturday's league defeat at Barnet following a calf strain.
Winger Garry Thompson remains sidelined with knee ligament damage and both striker James Hanson and Australian defender James Meredith are doubtful.
Hanson sustained a knock at Barnet, so Alan Connell is on stand-by, and Meredith is still struggling with the after-effects of the virus that ruled him out at the weekend.
Defenders Luke Oliver (ruptured Achilles) and Andrew Davies (knee) remain long-term absentees.
Meanwhile, Lambert believes reaching a Wembley final this season would be an "absolutely phenomenal" achievement for his young side.
Villa have experienced mixed fortunes so far in what is a transitional first season under Lambert, with top-flight experience at a premium in the Scot's squad.
The starting line-up against Swansea recently had an average age of just 23 years and 120 days with a number of players having been brought through the academy or recruited from the lower leagues.
They currently sit two places and one point above the Barclays Premier League relegation zone, but there remains a feel-good factor around Villa Park, not least with the team in the FA Cup fourth round and two matches away from a possible place in the Capital One Cup final.
They meet Bradford knowing they are heavy favourites to overcome the League Two outfit. Regardless of the level of opposition, though, Lambert knows reaching the final would be huge for the club.
"For this club to get to Wembley again would be extraordinary," he said. "In a one-off game there you just never know what could happen.
"To get there I think every player would tell you would be absolutely phenomenal."
Asked whether it would surpass any of his previous achievements, the former Scotland international said: "I think it would, yes.
"I never view it as any great achievement on my own behalf. It's the players and the fans. I never really look at myself and think `I'm going to do that' because it is irrelevant. The important thing is what happens to this club and the players."
Lambert will be without Marc Albrighton (metatarsal) after his knock against Ipswich while Ashley Westwood, Ron Vlaar and Richard Dunne are still unavailable.