FA Cup Preview: Aston Villa v Sheffield United
By Football News
Aston Villa's quest to end a 57-year drought without FA Cup success starts with a tricky third-round encounter against Sheffield United.
Only three teams can boast more FA Cup triumphs than Villa's haul of seven, but you have to go back as far as 1957 for the last time the club lifted the iconic trophy with a 2-1 victory over Manchester United.
The Midlands outfit did reach the final in 2000 under the management of John Gregory, but fell to a 1-0 defeat versus Chelsea courtesy of Roberto Di Matteo's second-half strike.
Manager Paul Lambert is charged with the task of bringing cup glory back to Villa, and the Scot will be hopeful of doing better than last year's effort when the side fell to a disappointing 2-1 defeat at Millwall in the fourth round.
Villa head into Saturday's encounter with the League One outfit on the back of a 1-0 success at Sunderland in Premier League, as Gabriel Agbonlahor's effort ended a frustrating run of five top-flight matches without a win.
The match against Gus Poyet's outfit saw a return for striker Christian Benteke following a three-match absence with a knee injury.
The Belgium international has gone 11 matches without registering a goal, but strike partner Agbonlahor is hopeful the 22-year-old can return to top form.
"He didn't get his goal at Sunderland but he had a lot of chances," he said. "I think it was good to give him the break he had to get his injury sorted and he was flying.
"That is big news for the fans, the team and the club. Hopefully we can get him back to his best."
On the face of it Villa should be confident of progressing to the fourth round against a side that has struggled in the third tier of English football this term.
The South Yorkshire outfit have collected 25 points from their 24 league matches, and sit just a point above the relegation zone.
But United have shown a marked improvement since Nigel Clough replaced David Weir as manager in October, and are sure to prove stern opposition to a Villa side that have won just two home league matches this season.
Clough's men recorded a 3-2 victory away to Colchester United in the opening round before a hard-fought 2-0 triumph over Conference side Cambridge United in round two.
Villa and United last met in the competition at the same stage in 2011, with Villa securing a 3-1 victory at Bramall Lane.