Stevenage make the trip to Villa Park tomorrow for the long-awaited FA Cup tie with former English and European Champions Aston Villa…
After an incredible first half of the league campaign, Steve Evans’ side have been rewarded with a huge away day to one of the most iconic stadiums in the country. Victories against non-league sides Gateshead and King’s Lynn Town meant that Stevenage made the third round of the FA Cup for the eighth time in the club’s history.
Earlier in the week, Evans made his first two signings of the January transfer window as Jake Forster-Caskey and Daryl Horgan were brought in, but both are unfortunately cup-tied ahead of this fixture.
Aston Villa currently sit eleventh in The Premier League meaning there are fifty-nine league places between tomorrow’s two sides. The Villains have a rich history which puts them amongst the elite clubs in England, having won seven top-tier titles, seven FA Cups, five League Cups and the European Cup and European Super Cup once.
Villa’s only ever relegation from the top flight was in 2016 but after just three campaigns in the Championship, the side returned to The Premier League under Manager Dean Smith. In 2020, The Villains made the Carabao Cup final but fell short to Manchester City.
This season has produced a mixed bag of results for Villa as they sit in the mid-table section. The side have played eighteen league matches, winning six, drawing four and losing eight. On New Year’s Day, The Villains travelled to The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and won 2-0, thanks to second-half goals from Emi Buendia and Douglas Luiz.
Then, on Wednesday, Villa welcomed local-rivals Wolves to Villa Park and picked up a crucial point through Danny Ings’ equaliser. Aston Villa have some huge names in their squad such as recent World Cup Winner Emi Martinez and the Stevenage-born Ashley Young. However, Boro can expect their opponents to make changes.
Villa began the season with Steven Gerrard as boss, but after winning just two of their opening twelve league matches, he was relieved of his duties. His replacement was a famous name and face to all fans of The Premier League. Unai Emery made his return to the top tier of English Football after enjoying an eighteen-month spell with Arsenal a couple years prior.
Emery has managed some other European giants in the past, such as PSG, Villareal, Sevilla and Valencia. The Spaniard has some huge accolades to his name, such as three consecutive Europa Leagues with Sevilla, alongside a fourth, five years later with Villareal. He won Ligue 1 with PSG and was a runner-up in the 2018/19 Europa League with Arsenal.
Villa Park has been home to Aston Villa since 1897 and is widely considered one of the most iconic stadiums in The UK. Three 1966 World Cup matches were played there aswell as four matches during Euro 1996.
The stadium, which holds a capacity of 42,682, has played host to 55 FA Cup semi-finals, the most of any other stadium. Almost 3,000 Boro fans will be witnessing tomorrow’s match from ‘The Doug Ellis Stand’.
Premier League referee, Graham Scott has been appointed Match Referee for tomorrow’s fixture, with Bhupinder Singh Gill and Sam Lewis as Assistants, and Matthew Donohue as Fourth Official.
VAR will be in play for this fixture, which will be overseen by Thomas Bramall and Derek Eaton.