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Preview : Villa v Rapid Vienna


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VillaTalk previews Villa's opening Europa League game against Austrian side Rapid Vienna

Opponent : Rapid Vienna

Venue : Gerhard Hanappi Stadium, Vienna

Date : Thursday, 20th, August

Kick off : 18:15 BST

150px-Rapid-Wien.png VERSUS 150px-Aston_Villa.svg.png

Villa start off their European campaign with an away trip to the Austrian capital, Vienna, to take on the green & whites of Rapid. When the tie was made, it was initially thought that Rapid might choose to play their home leg in the 53,000 capacity Ernst Happel stadium. But it was decided that they would use the more intimate and probably more intimidating surroundings of their own Gerhard Hanappi stadium with a capacity of around 18,400. The official site has confirmed that this game is a sell-out so the atmosphere should be great.

Gerhard Hanappi Stadium

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With Villa coming off quite a shocking hiding at the weekend, Rapid are likely to face a Villa side who are a lot more fired up than they might otherwise have been. This has to be good news for Villa fans because any chance there was that Villa would turn up just to go through the motions is now well and truly gone. The lads will want to put Saturday behind them and use this as the remedy for the hangover.

As we mentioned when the draw was made, Rapid Vienna have already made their way past 2 teams to get to this stage of the competition. They easily disposed of Albanian outfit Vllaznia Shkodër 8-0 on aggregate in the 2nd qualifying round. Though they struggled past Cypriots APOP Kinyras Peyias 3-2 on aggregate in the 3rd round. Though I believe that was with injuries and rested players so I wouldn't take that as any benchmark for form or ability.

While it is true that Villa avoided the obvious banana skin of Genoa in the draw, Rapid Vienna are no mugs. They have been crowned Austrian champions twice since 2005 while competing against moneybags Red Bull Salzburg. They have also won the most Austrian league titles having been crowned champions 32 times in their history (though 16 of those were in a Vienna-only league before an Austria-wide league was set up).

Their biggest achievement in Europe to date was in reaching the final of the European Cup Winners Cup on 2 occasions, 1985 where they lost to Everton & 1996 where they lost out to Paris Saint Germain.

The Austrian Bundesliga is 4 games into it's season and Rapid have made a shaky start. They have only won one of their first 3 games, they lie 7th out of 10 teams and their game in hand is against the top side Sturm Graz so it could be that they too are a wounded animal looking to bounce back from inconsistent form. At the very least it is 2 teams motivated by faltering league form as much as they are a desire to progress in Europe.

Villa travel to Vienna with no new injury worries and if reports are to be believed, John Carew is winning his race to be fit for the game too. We badly lacked his influence against Wigan and it would be a huge boost if he could lead the line alongside Gabby in this one.

The big question mark of course is how seriously Martin O'Neill will take this game considering that there is a huge game against Liverpool in Anfield 4 days later where we face the possibility of having no points from 2 league games.

I wouldn't be surprised to see a less than full strength starting 11 for this one with the likes of Marc Albrighton getting another chance to shine. For me, the biggest conundrum at present is who will play in the centre of midfield. In my view a lot of our problems against Wigan stemmed from having a lack of direction in the middle so if we can sort that out then I suspect the rest will fall into line.

So here begins a new season in Europe. European nights are great and I hope we give this competition some proper attention. If we wanted to, we could win this thing outright. I just hope Martin gives us the chance to do so.

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Well i'm quietly confident, watched a few of their games on Austrian TV and they have been shaky, if we can find some of the excellent counter attack football we showed during the early part of last season we should win this by a couple of goals (just hope our) defence holds .

Managed to get a ticket via the club and will be collecting at the stadium. The club and ticket office have been fantastic in organising this and i will be letting The General know (as he helped in the first place).

Supporting Villa for 30 years this is the first away european game i have been able to go to, so i am more than excited, hope its a good game with great villa support.

Will cheer the boys on for you that can't go.

UTV

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Villa have announced their squad for the game:

Everyone

Nah only kidding

Friedel, Guzan, Marshall, Davies, Shorey, Beye, Cuellar, Lichaj, Clark, Lowry, Sidwell, A Young, Milner, Albrighton, Delph, Petrov, Reo-Coker, Gardner, Carew, Agbonlahor, Delfouneso, Heskey

So I was actually right first time ....

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We've got three Austrian youngsters on the books, one young Hungarian and one just left, plus we've had two Swiss and we took Salifou from the Swiss league so I've a feeling we've scout out there somewhere. Let's hope Mr O'Neill is very well informed on our opponent.

I'm hopeful of a 2-1 victory.

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