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Preview: Aston Villa vs. Birmingham City

Sports Mole previews Tuesday night's Second City derby, as Aston Villa host Birmingham City in the third round of the League Cup.

The first Second City derby for four years takes place at Villa Park on Tuesday evening when Aston Villa host Birmingham City in the League Cup.

The teams may be a division apart, but there will be no love lost between these two arch rivals with a place in the fourth round of the competition at stake.

Aston Villa

Tim Sherwood Manager of Aston Villa looks on prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion at Villa Park on September 19, 2015 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. © Getty Images

It has been a disappointing start to the Premier League season for Villa, with just one win from six games so far leaving them 17th in the standings.

That said, there have been signs that there is plenty to come from Tim Sherwood's side. Inconsistency has blighted them thus far and is one reason why they have not capitalised on several winning positions.

They fought their way back from a goal down to go 2-1 up against Sunderland two weeks ago, only to let that lead slip in the second half as the Black Cats secured a 2-2 draw at Villa Park.

The following week, Villa looked impressive as they raced into a 2-0 lead at Leicester City and remained two goals ahead with 18 minutes remaining. However, Sherwood's side capitulated, allowing the Foxes to score three times late on to claim a 3-2 success.

They faced another Midlands rival on Saturday in the form of West Bromwich Albion, but they were never near their best as the Baggies came away from Villa Park with a one-goal win.

Villa's last win, in fact, came in the previous round of the League Cup as they fended off the challenge of League Two Notts County with a 5-3 victory after extra time, which was largely thanks to a Scott Sinclair hat-trick.

Sherwood knows that he has his work cut out as the fans begin to grow restless. After steering the club to safety last season it was expected that the team would push on into mid-table, so the former Tottenham Hotspur boss will be desperate to lead them away from the relegation zone as quickly as possible.

The cup provides a welcome break from league action, although Sherwood would probably prefer to play a more low-key tie right now. A derby fixture could prove to be a night to forget for Villa or, should the result be the right one, a chance to kickstart their season.

Recent form: WLLDLL
Recent form (all competitions): LLWDLL

Birmingham City

Gary Rowett of Birmingham City looks on during the pre season friendly match between Nuneaton Town and Birmingham City at the James Parnell Stadium on July 14, 2015© Getty Images

Birmingham have enjoyed a better start to their league campaign, with three wins and three draws leaving them seventh in the Championship, just outside the playoff positions.

Gary Rowett has done a commendable job at St Andrew's since talking charge just under a year ago. When he was appointed, the Blues were struggling towards the bottom of the table, but he guided them to a mid-table finish at the end of last season and is now looking to better that this time around.

They suffered their first defeat of the season last Tuesday, as Nottingham Forest beat them 1-0 at home. They responded on Friday night by holding high-flying Ipswich Town to a 1-1 draw at Portman Road, in a match where they looked in better form.

Birmingham booked their place in the third round of the League Cup with a 2-0 win over Gillingham last month. The League One side provided stern opposition on the night, but Rowett's men had enough to come through the tie thanks to a brace from Wes Thomas.

Birmingham and their fans will be well aware of Villa's struggles of late and they would love nothing more than to rub salt into their rivals' wounds by securing victory at Villa Park.

Recent form: DDWWLD
Recent form (all competitions): DWWWLD

Team News

Idrissa Gueye of Aston Villa looks on during the pre season friendly between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Aston Villa at Molineux on July 28, 2015© Getty Images

Sherwood has a number of injury concerns coming into the match, most notably midfielder Idrissa Gueye, who has flown to France to meet with a specialist regarding his hamstring injury.

Adama Traore will not be fit enough in time to face Birmingham. The winger has been out for several weeks after suffering a knock in the win over Notts County but this match has come too soon for him.

Meanwhile, defenders Jores Okore and Tiago Ilori are not fully fit and could miss out.

Birmingham have no injury problems, and Rowett could pick the same XI that drew at Ipswich last time out.

Paul Caddis is in contention to replace Neal Eardley at right-back, while Jacques Maghoma could come in for Andrew Shinnie in midfield.

Aston Villa possible starting lineup:
Guzan; Hutton, Richards, Okore, Amavi; Westwood, Sanchez, Gil; Agbonlahor, Grealish, Gestede

Birmingham City possible starting lineup:
Kuszczak; Caddis, Morrison, Spector, Grounds; Kieftenbeld, Gleeson; Cotterill, Shinnie, Gray; Donaldson

Head To Head

This fixture has largely gone the way of Villa in the past, with 52 wins compared to Birmingham's 38, while there have been 31 draws. Villa also hold the superior record at home, winning 30 times while Birmingham have won only 14 times at Villa Park.

The last time the two played was in the Premier League in January 2011. Roger Johnson and James Collins both scored as the teams recorded a 1-1 draw at St Andrew's.

Their last cup meeting was in the quarter-finals of this competition in December 2010. On that occasion, a late goal from Nikola Zigic saw Birmingham progress into the last four. Later that season they would go on to lift the trophy at Wembley thanks to a famous victory over Arsenal in the final.

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We say: Aston Villa 2-1 Birmingham City

This is a huge game for Villa which, on paper, they should feel confident of winning. However, successive defeats to local rivals have raised concerns and a third would increase the pressure on Sherwood.

Birmingham will make the short trip to their rivals with no expectation on their shoulders, which could work in their favour.

Villa, provided that they keep their cool on the night, should have too much quality for their Championship opponents and will be fancied to go through to the next round.

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Who will win Tuesday's derby, Villa or Birmingham?

An Ipswich Town sign is seen inside of Portman Road, home of Ipswich Town Football Club on March 15, 2011
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