MATCH PREVIEW: ASTON VILLA v DERBY
Posted on: Thu 01 Nov 2007
The Rams head to Villa Park looking to build on the progress from their last away game, that 0-0 draw at Fulham almost a fortnight ago.
That marked a first clean sheet and a first point on the road this season for Billy Davies's side.
Defeat at home to Everton on Sunday, and in the manner it came, was something of a setback given the steady improvement over recent weeks.
But one thing we did see a lot of last season was the ability of Derby to bounce back from a blow.
Now they face an Aston Villa side hovering comfortably in mid-table but with aspirations of challenging the top six.
Their last outing in front of the home faithful ended in a 4-1 defeat, though that only tells the story as two players were sent off and Manchester United were simply inspired.
Martin O'Neill has got Villa moving in the right direction again after a difficult couple of years.
It's easy to forget that European football's top prize resided at Villa Park only 25 years ago.
Gabriel Agbonlahor told www.avfc.co.uk:
"We've got some important games coming up, starting with Derby on Saturday, and we're looking to string a few results together.
"We want to start jumping up the league and to do that we definitely have to win our home games.
"We'd been doing well at Villa Park until the Manchester United game and we want to get back to winning ways at Villa Park.
"When the fans get behind us at Villa Park we feel we can do a job against anybody and we want to go into the derby game against Blues with a win."
Goalkeeper Scott Carson and midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker are available again for the home side after suspension.
Curtis Davies is finding his feet in the reserves after a difficult start to his Villa career but boss Martin O'Neill may choose to keep an unchanged defence.
John Carew is rated as "touch and go", Patrik Berger only made his first appearance of the season on Sunday, and new-boy Moustapha Salifou is building his fitness.
For Derby, striker Kenny Miller is hopeful of being fit after picking up a hamstring injury in the defeat to Everton.
Stephen Pearson and Andy Griffin will be fine after a virus, while Dean Leacock is clear of the groin injury that had been troubling him.
But Andy Todd continues to have problems with his back and hamstring and won't feature until he is fully-fit
Derby go looking for their first win at Villa Park since November 1988 when Dean Saunders and Paul Goddard netted in a 2-1 success for Arthur Cox's side.
The Rams' last top-flight spell didn't see much success there as they were beaten in each of their six visits.
Tyrone Mears needs one more appearance for 100 career league outings with Manchester City, Preston, West Ham and Derby.
Eddie Lewis is one shy of 250 in the English game following his earlier spells with Fulham, Preston and Leeds.
Lancashire's Mark Halsey takes charge on Saturday following a season that began at Wembley for the Community Shield clash between Chelsea and Manchester United.
Halsey's 12 games in 2007/08 have seen 31 yellow cards with just a solitary dismissal, Arsenal's Philippe Senderos in the September game with Portsmouth.
He was last in charge of Derby on April 9 2005, when George Burley's side beat Stoke City 3-1 at Pride Park.