Staunton hopes cup run can lift Villa
Steve Staunton is hoping that success in the Capital One Cup will help Aston Villa drag themselves away from the Barclays Premier League relegation zone.
Villa travel to Bradford tonight for the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final.
The midlands side started the season full of confidence following the appointment of highly-rated young manager Paul Lambert, but with just over half the season gone Villa sit just one point above the relegation zone in 16th place.
Given the youthful make-up of the Villa squad, many have predicted a nervous second half of the season for Lambert's side.
However, former Villa defender Staunton hopes the players can get to the Capital One Cup final and use that will have a positive effect on their league form.
"You hope this will be a good distraction for them," Staunton said.
"Hopefully the confidence of the younger players will get a massive boost if they get to the final and hopefully that boost can be carried in to the league form where they can carry on, get away from the relegation zone with some good results and hopefully as the years go on become a very good young team."
Staunton came close to being relegated twice during two spells with the club and he has warned that Villa should not think they are immune from the drop because of their status as one of the top flight's big clubs.
"Darren Bent's goals will be important and Benteke has done well for the squad" - Steve Staunton
"It's not a given that they are safe from relegation," the former Republic of Ireland manager said. "There are three teams from seven or eight who could go down.
"There is only a couple of points separating them. One defeat can throw a team in to an awful lot of trouble."
Having helped the team through to the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday, Lambert could retain the services of striker Darren Bent, who had previously fallen out of favour with the Scot.
Rumours persist that Bent will leave the club this month, but Staunton would like him to stay and form an effective partnership with his main rival Christian Benteke.
"It would be nice to see them both together and get a run of games together as a pair," Staunton said.
"Darren Bent's goals will be important and Benteke has done well for the squad. They are two quick lads.
“Benteke is very good in the air and we know Bent can score goals so I hope that we'll be able to see them together."
Aston Villa strikers Darren Bent (hamstring) and Gabriel Agbonlahor (thigh) and winger Charles N'Zogbia (knee) all returned to action in Saturday's FA Cup third-round win over Ipswich and reported no setbacks.
Marc Albrighton suffered a knock to his problematic metatarsal bone in that match while Ashley Westwood (ankle), Ron Vlaar (calf) and Richard Dunne (knee) are still out.
Striker Christian Benteke was rested against Ipswich and may return at Valley Parade while goalkeeper Shay Given will hope to keep his place ahead of regular number one Brad Guzan.
Provisional squad: Guzan, Given, Lowton, Baker, Herd, Clark, Lichaj, Stevens, Bennett, Ireland, N'Zogbia, Bannan, Delph, Holman, Benteke, Bent, Agbonlahor, Bowery, Weimann, Burke, Johnson, Williams, Carruthers.
Bradford winger Kyel Reid and defender Carl McHugh could return to the starting line-up.
Reid, who returned from a two-and-a-half week lay-off due to a groin injury in mid-December, has been used sparingly by manager Phil Parkinson in recent weeks, while McHugh returned to the substitutes' bench in Saturday's league defeat at Barnet following a calf strain.
Winger Garry Thompson remains sidelined with knee ligament damage and both striker James Hanson and Australian defender James Meredith are doubtful.
Hanson sustained a knock at Barnet, so Alan Connell is on stand-by, and Meredith is still struggling with the after-effects of the virus that ruled him out at the weekend.
Provisional squad: Duke, Good, McArdle, Darby, Doyle, Ravenhill, R Jones, G Jones, Atkinson, Hanson, Wells, Brown, McHugh, McLaughlin, Hines, Turgott, Connell, Reid.