ASTON VILLA and Middlesbrough knew plenty about each other on the last occasion that they were together in the second tier – and it is the same again now.
Back in 1987-88, Villa and Boro faced each other twice in quick succession in autumn fixtures at Villa Park, with the hosts claiming revenge for a league loss by knocking Boro out of the League Cup.
That campaign famously ended in both sides being promoted to the top flight, with Villa finishing in the second automatic spot after Boro lost on the final day of the season and did things the hard way via the play-offs.
Three decades on and both sides again harbour aspirations to return to the big time and while tonight’s cup encounter will rank down their list of priorities in the grand scheme of things, it provides an opportunity to generate further momentum.
After a slow start to the season, which saw him under fire from sections of the club’s support, Villa chief Steve Bruce has been afforded some respite by virtue of a six-match unbeaten run in all competitions, including a 0-0 draw with Boro seven days ago.
Boro are also growing into the season, with Garry Monk’s side having not been beaten in their last five matches.
The smart money is on the line-ups of both sides being a fair bit different to exactly a week ago, with the likes of Patrick Bamford, George Friend and Adam Forshaw likely to be handed starts after being on the bench in recent times – and Jonny Howson and Daniel Ayala could also start.
Several youngsters are also likely to be included in Monk’s squad, with Marcus Tavernier and Lewis Wing handed game time in Boro’s 3-0 win over Scunthorpe in the second round.
Martin Braithwaite, a £9m summer arrival, could also feature after being out since injuring his hamstring on August 5.
Boro will be without the suspended duo of Adam Clayton and Adama Traore, while Marvin Johnson, who took the plaudits in Saturday’s 3-2 win over QPR, is ineligible after appearing for Oxford United in the first round.
Last six games: Aston Villa WWDDDW Middlesbrough LWDWDW.
Referee: S Martin (Staffordshire).
Last time: Aston Villa 0 Middlesbrough 0; September 12, 2017; Championship.