Duo poised for surprise return

Last updated : 13 January 2005 By Pancho Villa

.Vassell has been sidelined since October when he broke his ankle during the team’s 2-0 win against Fulham at Villa Park. In his absence, Carlton Cole and Juan Pablo Angel have mustered just two goals between them and the England striker’s return will be welcomed by a Villa team that are in the midst of a dismal run of form.

Vassell is likely to line up on the bench for the reserves against Manchester United on Thursday, but fellow first team regular Thomas Hitzlsperger is expected to start at the Bescott stadium. The German international has missed the last eight matches and with the confirmed loss of Gavin McCann for at least six weeks, O’Leary will be keen to strengthen his midfield.

The reigning Reserve League North champions, Villa will be looking to reclaim top spot against one of their main rivals for the crown after Birmingham and Blackburn both moved above them, albeit after playing three more games.