Aston Villa v CSKA Moscow

Live UEFA Cup action roars back onto Five with coverage of this Round of 32 clash between Aston Villa and CSKA Moscow. Martin O’Neill’s men will be looking to take a big step towards the next round with victory at Villa Park. Colin Murray presents while former Villa manager Graham Taylor joins Dave Woods in the commentary box. Kick-off is at 19.00.

Aston Villa have enjoyed a terrific season in the Premiership so far this term, chalking up 47 points in 23 games – just three points off the top. Currently sitting pretty in fourth place, the club are locked in a once-unthinkable battle with Arsenal for the last Champions League spot. The Midlands side have lost only one game out of the five they have played against the so-called Big Four.

Martin O’Neill has a clutch of goal scorers to thank for his side’s fine form. Gabriel Agbonlahor has scored ten goals in all competitions so far this season, while John Carew, Gareth Barry and Ashley Young have contributed seven each. The defence is still a little shaky – Villa have let in 24 goals since August. The team must also cope with the loss of captain Martin Laursen, who was ruled out for two months at the end of January due to a knee injury.

O’Neill has teamed up again with Emile Heskey, signing the England striker from Wigan in a £3.5million deal during the January transfer window. Heskey helped O’Neill lift the League Cup twice at their former club, Leicester, and will add to Villa’s already formidable attacking line-up. He immediately impressed by scoring on his debut, a 1-0 Premiership away win over Portsmouth.

In the UEFA Cup, O’Neill’s players scraped into the Round of 32 by finishing third in their group. The Villans started brightly with victories over Ajax and Slavia Prague, before losing to MSK Zilina and Hamburg – games in which O’Neill chose to rest a number of key players. Nonetheless, the manager knows that his men will have to pull out all the stops against stiffer competitors as the UEFA Cup reaches its critical stages.

Aston Villa’s opponents are Russian giants CSKA Moscow. Winners of the 2005 UEFA Cup, CSKA secured qualification for the Round of 32 by topping their group with a clean sweep of victories over La Coruña, Lech Poznan, AS Nancy and Feyenoord.

CSKA’s trip to Villa Park will be the first game in charge for Brazilian coach Zico, who takes the helm following the departure of the long-serving Valeri Gazzaev in December. A star of the Brazil national team in the 1970s and 80s, Zico was the 1983 World Player of the Year. His managerial career includes a four-year stint as coach of Japan and a spell with Fenerbahce, with whom he won the Turkish league in 2005.

Zico inherits a squad in good form. CSKA have won the Russian Premier League three times since 2003, finishing second in 2008. He can also count the UEFA Cup’s leading goal scorer this season amongst his squad. Vágner Love has found the net eight times on his way to the Round of 32 and has recently been linked with a £12million move to Everton.

Martin O’Neill, facing his first managerial game against Russian opposition, will be conscious of the daunting trip to the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow that awaits in the second leg, and will be looking to dominate on home soil.

Should Villa triumph, a mouth-watering potential meeting with Tottenham lies ahead in the next round – a game that would be only the third all- English UEFA Cup tie in the competition’s history.

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