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Aston Villa v City: Opposition View

We caught up with Damien Dugdale (@AVFCBlog) to get his thoughts on today's FA Cup fourth round tie.

How are you feeling ahead of the game?

Drunkenly optimistic. We're bottom of the table and as supporters we've got two options; we get frustrated and angry at our club or we blindly hope that something good can come from all of this. It's the FA Cup and in the FA Cup anything can happen. Didn't Wigan win it a few years ago and look at them now!

How much importance are your Club and fans placing on the tie?

Not much to be fair. As football fans we get to see so much football these days from some great sides and we see some not so great sides playing the way we would like to. 

Sure, we can all speak of the positive effect that our new manager is having but we still see the team hitting hopeful balls rather than holding on to it and looking to play a decent ball. This tie is a match we have to play and you wont find a supporter after the match that will be that disappointed if we get spanked. 

But we'd all like to see a little more bite, a few more chances created and if we won, the next round would be massive, because if we won, we'd start to think we might be able to get something out of this season. You are one of the favourites after all.

Do you believe Villa can avoid the drop? What has gone wrong this season?

Mathematically it's possible and we have picked up five points from a possible twelve this month, which is a step in the right direction. But to go into May needing to beat Newcastle and Arsenal to get to 40 points we need to win two and draw one match in February, March and April. 

It's not impossible - look at Leicester - but it's asking a lot and I suspect a little too much for our club and our lack of footballing expertise.

As for what has gone wrong this season; I think it's just a lack of football people at the club. We made too many new signings last summer that were expected to start and make an instant impact and we paid over the odds for fringe players. Most clubs in our position (those not regularly playing European football) bring in players from overseas for a lot less than some of the amounts we have paid.

It will get better next season, because if we continue doing what we're doing we're only going to get the same results and even though our owner isn't at Villa Park each week and he's appointed Steve Hodge to act as Chairman, I do think he takes an interest and I do think he's knows that we need to adapt ... or die.

Remi Garde says the Club are on the hunt for new faces in the January transfer window. Who would you like to see brought in?

This is all pie in the sky thinking, but if Liverpool can get a new striker, whey can't we loan back Benteke for the rest of the season? I'm not sure he'll make a difference, but he'll certainly breathe some optimism in the club. But I also think he'll see it as a step down, from sitting on the Liverpool bench to playing for Aston Villa. But if I was the CEO, Chairman or Manager, I'd be going all out to try and bribe a world class player or two to come and play for us until the end of the season and I'd be offering up huge bonuses if they helped us stay up. You can pick the names, but the worst they can say is no.  

How do you expect the Villans to line-up on Saturday? Who will play and in what formation?

I don't think there will be that many changes for us, in the sense I think Garde will put out his strongest side and I think it will look like 4-3-3 but will also most of the match look like very much like 4-5-1. He didn't start with Veretout last time out, but I expect him to come back in, so if I were to predict a starting eleven, it would most likely be Bunn in goal with Richards, Okore, Lescott and Cissokho in front of him. 

In midfield, I think we're going to see Gueye and Westwood sitting back with Veretout, Bacuna and Gil in front of those and Ayew up front by himself. I hope we play this side anyway, but I'm never right with formations and I'd not be surprised to see Guzan and Kozak start. 

Where do you think the key battles will take place on the pitch?

It will without a doubt be our defending. I watched you the other night against Everton and it really did look a different match after they wound you up a little. But as long as we can hold our formation and literally throw ourselves in front of everything, we've got the possibility to counter and it's wroth pointing out we've not lost in five and even though we do tend to hit and hope, we are looking a little better at the moment when we do have the ball.

What are your views on City as a club? Is your opinion shared by the majority of Villa fans?

I've written this before and I don't think it will change; the game these days is about spending money and buying success and there are no real rules in place to stop a side doing what you have done the past few years and good on you. But I like what you've done with the community and everything attached to the club.

I do hope that one day some rules are put in place that mean every team in the Premier League can only spend £50m on salaries and bonuses in a season, to make it a level playing field, but until that day comes, we have to accept what clubs are allowed to do. I don't think there is an Aston Villa fan that would mind us getting an owner like yours.

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