Rapid Vienna v Villa preview
Aston Villa kick-off their Europa League campaign with a tough looking trip to Austria to play Rapid Vienna. A play-off round, first leg clash is probably not at the top of manager Martin O'Neill's wish-list at this stage of the season, but it is a tie he will have to negotiate if Villa are to have prolonged participation in the Europa League's inaugural competition. Rapid are currently midway through their domestic campaign and at optimum fitness, as Liverpool will testify having lost to the Austrian outfit in pre-season. Villa kicked-off their league campaign with a meek 2-0 defeat at home to Wigan that saw the club's supporters make their dissatisfaction known. O'Neill is too canny a manager to be despondent after one poor result but nonetheless he'll be demanding a much improved display away from Villa Park. With a near full strength squad to choose from O'Neill will hand Brad Guzan, excellent in pre-season, an opportunity to impress between the posts as Brad Friedel is given a rest. The Ulsterman handed Fabian Delph a surprise debut on Saturday but with Steve Sidwell and Nigel Reo-Coker having been less than impressed with their respective omissions, it seems likely one - or more likely both - will start in Vienna. Craig Gardner is also likely to line-up in midfield. John Carew missed the Wigan game with a foot injury but has travelled and could start alongside starlet Nathan Delfouneso, with Gabriel Agbohlahor and Ashley Young to be wrapped in cotton wool. Habib Beye, who like Delph made his debut against Wigan, will likely continue at right-back, with Nicky Shorey occupying the opposite flank. Vienna have proved to be a decent outfit over the past couple of campaigns and finished second last season in the Austrian Bundesliga behind Salzburg. Managed by Peter Pacult the capital outfit have players who could hurt Villa, with young striker Christopher Trimmel having caught the eye since being pitched into the first team fold. A recent six-minute hat-trick against SK Austria Karnten underlined his potential and Villa must defend better than they did at the weekend if they are to keep him off the scoresheet.
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