DAVID SMITH - Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Jozy Altidore should see time for Villarreal as they already have one foot in the Europa League group stage while Brad Guzan and his fellow Villans will try to finish off Rapid Vienna in Villa Park.
Dnepr Mogilev - Villarreal (agg. 0-5)
With the pressure off thanks to their resounding five-goal victory in last week's first leg, Jozy Altidore will hope to once again take the field for Villarreal on their trip to Dnepr Mogilev's Spartak Stadion on Thursday.
Once seeming to be a man on the outside at the Spanish club, Altidore received a huge boost for the season last week when he featured as a late substitute in their 5-0 home win over the Belarusian team.
Even though the two-legged series was already well in Villarreal's hands with four goals on the board at the time of Altidore's entry onto the field for fellow forward Guiseppe Rossi, the move by head coach Juan Carlos Garrido gave a clear signal that the young American will have a place on the squad for the upcoming La Liga and Europa League campaign.
Going into the away leg with a practically insurmountable advantage over Dnepr, Garrido has chosen to rest several of his players - including starting forward Rossi - making another appearance by Altidore a likely scenario.
Brazilian international Nilmar will almost certainly get the starting nod up top for the Yellow Submarine, leaving the relatively inexperienced Jefferson Montero, Marco Ruben and Altidore as the remaining options to see minutes in the front line.
With the team's La Liga opener against Real Sociedad just three days after Thursday's clash, Garrido has also left starters Santi Cazorla, Marcos Senna, Angel Lopez, Joan Capdevilla and Gonzalo Rodriguez home to rest up in Vila-real, putting the game in the hands of a number of youngsters.
Dnepr showed weariness from their thrashing last week over the weekend, falling by a 2-1 score in league play to Belschyna Babrujsk, but are fully healthy and will be eager to redeem themselves in front of the home crowd.
Aston Villa - Rapid Vienna (agg. 1-1)
Brad Guzan should get the starting nod in goal while Eric Lichaj will hope to get another shot in Villa's defense on Thursday as the team tries to erase last year's failure against Rapid Vienna.
Veteran keeper Brad Friedel will likely watch his protege Guzan from the bench as he looks to guide the team into the group stage of the competition.
Villa are in a better position than precisely one year before when they began the home leg against Rapid with a 1-0 deficit, and will be desperate to avoid a similar fate which saw them win the game but ultimately eliminated from the competition on away goals.
Unlike last season, any win or a scoreless draw will be enough to see them through, however they must be weary of conceding any away goals to the Austrians as any slip-ups will put them in a precarious position.
Interim Villa coach Kevin MacDonald is a man under pressure following the 6-0 self-destruction by the team in Premier League play against Newcastle over the weekend, as he has reportedly been given just two games to prove he is deserving to take the reigns on a permanent basis.
He received some good news in the days leading up to the game since previously-injured first-teamers Gabriel Agbonlahor, James Collins and Carlos Cuellar should be able to suit up for the hosts, but he will still have to make do without defenders Richard Dunne, Luke Young and Stephen Warnock.
Rapid midfielder Tanju Kayhan will miss the game due to picking up his second yellow card of the competition last week, and head coach Peter Pacult will also be lacking defender Hannes Eder, midfielder Christopher Drazan, forward Mario Konard and backup keeper Lukas Königshofer, who were all left out of the traveling squad.
Dominic Cervi will likely watch from the bench as Celtic try to protect their 2-0 lead over Dutch hosts Utrecht on Thursday night.
Freddy Adu will not take part for Aris, who face Austria Vienna on Thursday night with a slim 1-0 aggregate lead.