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Five key factors for Bradford at Villa Park

Tuesday 22nd January 2013 9:56

Bradford: Defending a 3-1 lead at Villa Park

Bradford: Defending a 3-1 lead at Villa Park

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Matty Briggs focuses on Tuesday's Capital One Cup semi-final and outlines five key factors for Bradford City as they bid to oust Aston Villa.

With a 3-1 first-leg advantage, League Two side Bradford head for Villa Park in the hope of becoming only the second bottom-tier team in history to reach the League Cup final. And our man @MattPBriggs takes at look as just how the Bantams might do the unthinkable and reach Wembley.

Wingers key

Bradford's two wide players will be key at Villa Park. Will Atkinson, Zavon Hines, Kyel Reid, Garry Thompson and Blair Turgott are all chasing two places, but whoever gets selected will have to be right on top of their game.

There's no doubt the majority of their work will be in their own half - just as it was at Wigan in round four, when the Bantams battled to a goalless draw.

Phil Parkinson's men played with four full-backs at times at The DW Stadium back in October with Hines and Thompson forced on to the back foot for long spells. The pair worked tirelessly to help their full-backs and almost smothered Wigan's threat at source - and a repeat showing will be needed.

However, Parkinson is sure to have drilled into his men that Villa are vulnerable defensively in the full-back positions, with both Matt Lowton and Joe Bennett looking uncertain in the first leg.

Parkinson will definitely try and isolate both Lowton and Bennett one-on-one in the hope that his preferred wingers can provide some ammunition for his frontmen.

Set-pieces crucial

Bradford scored all three goals from set-pieces in the first leg and Villa have shown their susceptibilty there all season. The hosts have conceded six times from corners in the league this season - including Saturday's late equaliser at The Hawthorns and Parky will know it will be City's best attacking ploy.

Both Rory McArdle and Carl McHugh will be hoping to get the nod again to do battle in the second leg, while Michael Nelson could be handed a debut and they will all be crucial inside both boxes.

James Hanson, who saw his diving header rebound off the woodwork in the first leg, is also likely to shake off a knock to lead the line. He will provide the biggest aerial threat and should give Ron Vlaar and co. plenty to think about.

Matt Duke

All of the Bantams' line-up will have to be on top form, but keeper Matt Duke needs to have the game of his life.

Duke has been inspirational in the club's run to the last four, denying Arsenal in the quarter-finals and Villa in the first leg - and Parky needs another big night from the Yorkshireman.

As a shot-stopper, he has been the best Bradford have had for a while, but he'll have to be more than that at Villa Park. He will need to be a commanding presence and also double up as a sweeper to deny Villa's speedy frontline.

Keep calm and don't panic

Bradford will almost certainly have to withstand an early onslaught at Villa Park, but if they do concede early on they must not panic.

In the grand scheme of things a goal for Villa would not be a disaster, because I think Bradford will need a goal to progress regardless. An early goal for the hosts would almost certainly hand Villa the initative, but it wouldn't really change the dynamics of the tie and it would still mean a goal for the visitors would leave Villa needing four.

Play with two strikers

Bradford have played with two frontmen all the way through their cup run and are unlikely to change from that tactic.

Hanson and the highly-rated Nakhi Wells look set to lead the Bradford attack and both, who have completely different strengths, will be equally important.

Hanson will provide the aerial threat and you can guarantee he will be the man the Bantams will look to to hold up the play, while Wells will be the threat in behind Villa's rearguard and the outlet in the channels. The Bermudian hot-shot will be looking to exploit the space down the sides of the Villa centre-backs or between the space between the centre-back and full-back.

Whether Villa play 4-4-2 or go with three at the back they are unlikely to start with a high line and squeeze the play - knowing Wells' pace could catch them cold.

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