Spotlight: Aston Villa’s Road To Wembley (2020)

Dean Smith Jack Grealish Wembley Final

The 2019/20 campaign has already been an eventful season for Villa.

Currently sitting in 17th place, 2020 has seen mixed outcomes for the club.  Early season optimism has since made way to facing up to the tough realities of Premier League life.

Victories over Burnley and Watford (as well as drawing 1-1 with Brighton) were offset by worrying recent defeats to Bournemouth and Southampton

However, the prospect of a Cup Final at Wembley and the chance of silverware, does much to lift spirits.

Written by Max WilkinsJoin The Team

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The downside to this year so far has been a 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Manchester City, a game in which little could be taken.

However, a positive that can be taken from this season as a whole is the Carabao Cup run which has seen Villa reach the final, meaning that the club has now achieved this feat in every decade (other than the 1940’s Wartime era).

Dean Smith has also become the first English manager since Harry Redknapp [2009] to reach the final of the competition.

On the run to the final, Villa have scored 19 goals in 6 games. 

The run started in the 2nd round at Gresty Road against Crewe Alexandra.

The hosts were arguably the better team on the night, but the quality that Villa had on the pitch showed and they came away with a sizable victory. The final score was 6-1 with Konsa, Hourihane, Davis, Guilbert, Grealish netting the goals.

Esri Konsa grabbed his first goal in a Villa shirt after his move from Brentford in the summer. Hourihane got 2 and Davis scored 1, but this didn’t reflect the near perfect performance that he had. Grealish came on and took his goal well, but nothing came close to the curling effort into the top corner from Frederic Guilbert late in the game which underlined the overall class that Villa disaplyed on the night to get the job done.

Crewe scored a consolation and got at least something from the game to shout about. Villa though, were safely through and set to face Brighton in the next round.

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Brighton, a fellow Premier League side, were next in store. They fielded a team relying mainly on youth, with Gaitan Bong and David Button providing the most experience in their starting XI.

Villa fielded a similar team to the one that was against Crewe in hope of advancing further in the competition. This wasn’t as prolific scoreline for Villa, but they still managed to score 3 past David Button, with Jota, Hourihane and Grealish securing a 3-1 win and a place in the 5th round.

Villa dominated proceedings with 70% possession as well as 14 more shots on goal. It was in truth a straighforward night on the south coast for Villa.  Local rivals Wolves were the reward, with the sides drawn to face off at Villa Park.

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This game had the potential to be the toughest test of this cup run so far.

Both teams put out decidedly second strings, with Wolves looking particularly youthful.  This nullified what some had hoped to be a fiery and competitive local cup clash.

Anwar El Ghazi opened the scoring for Villa, sliding the ball under John Ruddy into the back of the net. Yet again Villa dominated the game but in this case didn’t count for much as Cutrone levelled up the scores for the visitors.

It only took 3 minutes but Villa’s experienced paid off as Elmohamady deftly headed the ball in from a corner, at the near post. The game, largely a non-event, ended 2-1 and Villa progressed to meet current European Champions Liverpool in the quarter-finals.

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Although at first viewing, Liverpool looked like a tough game with Jurgen Klopp’s side undefeated and already looking set to secure a first Premier League title.

However, the visitors  were also competing in the Club World Cup in Qatar at the same time as this game was scheduled.

Because of this, Neil Critchley, Liverpool’s Under-23’s manager, would take charge of a team made up of youthful Liverpool prospects.  Klopp and the Liverpool first team squad were granted permission to focus their attention on the Club World Cup, thus resulting in an opposition of totally unfamiliar rookie faces walking out at Villa Park.

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The game started with the Liverpool youngsters threatening a visibily more experienced Villa side, but this only lasted so long, with Conor Hourihane scoring after 14 minutes.  This arguably came after a spell where Liverpool were the better team.

Villa were in the midst of a striker crisis at this point as neither Wesley nor Kodjia could seem to find the net.

Supporters attending this fixture would witness a change in fortunes, as Kodjia scored 2 and Wesley managed to get 1.

The game finished 5-0 and some criticism was sent the way of Villa for the ruthless way they beat the young side, but, at the same time, you can only beat what’s in front of you.

And so it was that Villa advanced into the two legged semi final against high-flying Leicester City.

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Villa had already lost 4-1 to Leicester at home in a dismal performance just a matter of weeks earlier.

This would have to be a high quality performance with no mistakes as they would be punished by Leicester’s fast build up and top class finishing.

Villa showed resilience and fight from the outset of the first leg.

Guilbert got his second goal of the run as he tapped in at the back post from a great cross from El Ghazi on the left.

It was 1-0 until the 74th minute when Ezri Konsa gave the ball away and Iheanacho scored to make it 1-1.

This is how it finished, much to the benefit of Villa who had come away with something to fight for back at Villa Park.

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The second leg came 20 days later, time in which Villa had been able to bring in a striker which had been missing since New Years Day when Wesley was injured.

Ally Samatta came in and made his first start for the club after moving for less than £10 million a week earlier.

Villa came out of the blocks quickly as they went and attacked Leicester’s back line, taking just 12 minutes to break the deadlock as Matt Targett fired it past Schmeichel at his near post.

This came after Leicester threatened dangerously in the opening exchanges with Nyland, making 4 world class saves to keep the scores level.

Leicester may have dominated proceedings but Villa were defensively sound and weren’t being easily broken down.

This was until Harvey Barnes got space down the line and drilled it across the 6 yard box for Kelechi Iheanacho who scored his 2nd goal in 3 games against Villa this season.

Leicester continued to push but it was Villa who scored the decisive goal to see themselves through when Elmohamady put a pin point cross in and his compatriot, Trezeguet, got on the end of the cross, guiding it across Schmeichel and into the net.

Chaos ensued around Villa Park as the thought of another trip to Wembley was becoming a reality.

The final whistle went after 7 minutes, 3 more than originally indicated, and a pitch invasion began much to the discontent of the stadium announcer.

No one cared, another trip to Wembley was on the horizon with the chance of a trophy in sight.


Aston Villa are +600 longshots to lift the League Cup on Sunday and have +1100 odds to win the match in 90 minutes.

This is compared to Man City at -1100 and -667, respectively according to Sascha Paruk from SportsBettingDime.

Not only are Man City 16 places above Villa in the Premier League table (with a goal differential that is +57 better), Pep Guardiola’s men have also dominated the head-to-heads, outscoring Villa 9-1 in their sides two previous meetings this season.

With the EPL title basically out of reach already, it’s reasonable to assume City will be focused upon clinching this trophy.

In a two horse race and in a cup final, seeing Villa on the exchanges for as much as 21/1 is rather tempting.  Fans who remember the clubs famous 3-1 victory over Manchester United at Wembley having a not dissimilar feel.  City can be spotted for as low as 1/9 on, bad value in anyone’s book.


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