Following a bright start to their League One campaign, Bolton Wanderers aim to cause an EFL Cup upset on Tuesday night, as they host Aston Villa at the University of Bolton Stadium.
While the Trotters cruised past Salford City earlier this month to make the second round draw, five-time winners Villa enter the competition at this stage, on the back of a miserable weekend defeat.
Ending a week in which summer signing Diego Carlos suffered a season-ending injury, Aston Villa lost their second away fixture of the season on Saturday, at the hands of Crystal Palace.
Following a meek capitulation at Bournemouth in their Premier League opener, Steven Gerrard’s men had eked out a home win against Everton, but despite taking the lead at Selhurst Park through Ollie Watkins, they were ultimately rolled over by a confident home side.
Under increasing pressure from a restless fanbase, and having lost 14 of 30 matches in charge since succeeding Dean Smith, Gerrard now turns to cup competition, where he is likely to blood some lesser-used fringe players.
With home games against West Ham and Manchester City sandwiching a trip to Arsenal during the coming week, Villa are in need of a morale-boosting display in one of the club’s favourite competitions.
Though the last of their five League Cup wins came back in 1996 – just two years after their fourth – the Midlands side were also finalists in 2010 and 2020, and a similar run would be welcomed this season.
After suffering their first league loss since March, in a 2-0 home defeat at the weekend, Bolton will be looking to bounce back immediately against potentially vulnerable top-flight opponents.
Seen off by an impressive Sheffield Wednesday side on Saturday afternoon, Wanderers conceded twice in two first-half minutes and then failed to break through as they sought a way back into the game after half time.
Nonetheless, they had previously gone 14 games without being beaten, pre-season friendlies aside – including a 5-1 thrashing of Salford in the EFL Cup first round.
Before making the long trip to Plymouth next weekend, Ian Evatt’s men will welcome another big crowd to their Lancashire headquarters, as after 22,000 fans came through the gates to witness Wednesday end their win streak, most will return in hope of seeing a cup upset.
With eight points from five games leaving them seventh in the early League One standings, a charge for promotion is very much on the cards, and knocking out their former Premier League colleagues would only serve to feed that momentum.
Bolton Wanderers EFL Cup form:
Bolton Wanderers form (all competitions):
Aston Villa form (all competitions):
We say: Bolton Wanderers 1-2 Aston Villa
Though they travel north on a down note, following a sluggish start to the season, it will be a much-changed Aston Villa XI that starts on Tuesday, and their top-level experience should prevent them from being turned over. Bolton rarely lose at home, but they now find themselves stepping up in class.