Sheffield United made a safe passage into round three by disposing of firstly Colchester United by three goals to two away from home and secondly a two-nil victory at non-leaguers Cambridge United live on BT Sport. Sheffield United managed to avoid an FA Cup upset as goals by Jose Baxter and Jamie Murphy guided them to a 2-0 victory at Skrill Premier Leaders Cambridge. The U's were looking for a second Sky Bet Football League scalp this week after knocking out Bury on Tuesday and started brightly, but were eventually kept at arm's length by their League One opponents. Both sides came close to an early breakthrough as Kwesi Appiah had a shot blocked by what he thought was an arm before Baxter's header was saved by keeper Chris Maxwell.
Baxter then gave the Blades the lead after 12 minutes when he met Ryan Flynn's low cross with a crisp, first-time finish that gave Maxwell no chance. Cambridge were almost level within two minutes when the Blades goalkeeper George Long produced a good block to deny Adam Cunnington. The U's hero from the last round, Luke Berry, then wasted a golden chance to level early in the second half as he ballooned a free header from Harrison Dunk's corner over. And he was made to regret that miss as Blades substitute Murphy doubled his side's lead when he was allowed to cut inside from the left before shooting inside the near post.
In the league the Blades have come on leaps and bounds since the appointment of Nigel Clough as manager on 23 October 2013 and went eight matches unbeaten in league and cup matches prior to their 2-1 defeat at Walsall on New Year’s Day. United had taken a surprise lead after 17 minutes when Chris Porter fired home. They lead until seven minutes after the break when Harry Maguire was judged to have pushed Andy Butler in the box with referee Lee Collins awarding a penalty, Craig Westcarr (a half-time substitute) stepped up and converted - it is the third successive time that both he and Porter have scored in this fixture.
The previous two games have ended in 1-1 draws but the Saddlers would have the final say ten minutes later in the outcome of this game in what was a thrilling move by the Midlands side saw Sam Matom finding James Chambers who netted to score his first ever league goal.
Blades boss Nigel Clough could see Shaun Miller return to the squad after the former Crewe striker was rested in the games against Tranmere Rovers and Walsall. Aaron Barry has been recalled from his loan spell at Dumbarton and may feature amongst the substitutes whilst Marlon King has seen his contract terminated and Lyle Taylor has joined Partick Thistle on loan. Meanwhile with the transfer window open players may join or leave the club prior to this weekend's cup clash.
Possible Blades Line-Up (4-4-1-1):
McMahon - Maguire - Collins - Hill
Flynn - Doyle (c) - McGinn - Brandy
Aston Villa made a barn storming start to their Premiership campaign on the opening day of the season; beating Arsenal by three goals to one at the Emirates Stadium but poor results which followed has sent the Birmingham club towards the bottom of the league and although they are perhaps in a better state than last season lay 11th in the table. They faced rock bottom side Sunderland on New Year’s Day at the Stadium of Light and notched their first victory for six matches when Gabriel Agbonlahor (formerly with Sheffield Wednesday on loan) scored after 15 minutes.
They had previous beaten Southampton by three goals to two on 4 December and since then failed to beat; Fulham (0-2), Manchester United (0-3), Stoke City (1-2), Crystal Palace (0-1) and Swansea City (1-1) until there win over Sunderland.
The hosts will see the return of Keiren Clark who missed the victory at the Stadium of Light after serving a one-match ban whilst Benteke should retain his place after starting against the Black Cats following recover from a knee injury - he had missed the previous three matches. However this match is likely to come too soon for Joe Bennett (back) who is sidelined through injury.
Possible Villa Line-Up (4-4-2):
Lowton - Vloor (c) - Luna - Baker
Bacuna - Weimann - Westwood
Agbonlahor - Benteke
Villa boss Paul Lambert is highly likely to feature former Sheffield United full-back Matt Lowton to face his former club. He was brought through the Academy by Kevin Blackwell and in March 2010 made his debut has a last minute substitute in a 1-1 draw at Cardiff City and made his full debut on the final day in a 3-0 victory at Ipswich Town. He was sent off (at Cardiff) on the opening day of the 2010/11 season and scored his first goal in a 3-3 draw with Burnley as the Blades suffered relegation that season.
The Chesterfield born defender was part of Danny Wilson's side which lost in the Play-Off Final (at Wembley) to Huddersfield Town on penalties before being sold to Aston Villa for a reported £3,000,000 in July 2012. He left the Lane having served under four permanent mangers; he made 76 (+13) appearances for the S2 club and scored ten goals.
In the event of a draw after 90 minutes a replay will commence at Bramall Lane, likely to be Tuesday, 14 January but this would have to be confirmed.
Blades-Mad Prediction: Aston Villa 0 Sheffield United 1 (why not?)