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Football | League Cup

Alan Connell © Gallo Images

Bradford within sight of Wembley



Aston Villa must overturn a 3-1 deficit in the second leg of their League Cup semifinal on Tuesday if they are to avoid becoming the latest team to fall to giant-killers Bradford City.

Fourth-tier Bradford have already accounted for Arsenal and Wigan Athletic in this season's competition and their shock 3-1 win at home to Villa on January 8 took them to within 90 minutes of a first final appearance in 102 years.

FA Cup winners in 1911, Bradford are bidding to become the first side from England's fourth tier to reach a major final since Rochdale lost to Norwich City over two legs in the 1962 League Cup final.

To do so, they must hold off a Villa team who showed real signs of improvement in Saturday's 2-2 Premier League draw at Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion, albeit despite letting a two-goal lead slip.

The point was enough to take Villa out of the relegation zone and manager Paul Lambert said the performance gave him plenty of reasons for optimism.

"I was not happy with conceding two goals but the performance and effort was excellent," he said.

"I thought we should have been out of sight in the first half and we played some fantastic football."

Charles N'Zogbia, fit again after a knee problem, set up both of Villa's goals at the Hawthorns and Lambert hinted that the decision to substitute him mid-way through the second half was made with half an eye on Tuesday's game.

"I took Charles off because he has got a lot of games coming up," he said.

"Remember that he's back from a long lay-off, so you have to watch him. We have to protect him."

Bradford's exploits in the League Cup have thrust manager Phil Parkinson into the limelight and he recently rejected an approach from Blackpool over the Championship club's vacant managerial position.

"This is a great club and it would have been bad practice of me to look to move with everything we have got going on," Parkinson told BBC radio.

"The fans and board have been exceptionally good to me and I want to repay that by bringing success."

The Yorkshire club have excelled in the cup competitions this season but Parkinson gave an indication of where his priorities lie by resting eight players in a 4-1 loss to Crewe Alexandra in the Football League Trophy.

Bradford's league game at Port Vale on Saturday was postponed due to a frozen pitch, but their cup run means Tuesday's game will be their 41st match of an energy-sapping season.

The Bantams could hand a debut to centre-back Michael Nelson, who has signed from last season's Scottish League Cup winners, Kilmarnock.

"Very pleased to have joined Bradford city fc," he wrote on Twitter. "Hopefully have some great times ahead."

Fixtures (1945GMT; aggregate score in brackets)

Tuesday:

Aston Villa v Bradford City (1-3)

Wednesday:

Swansea City v Chelsea (2-0)

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