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Football Shorts League Cup semi-final special: Plus all the latest transfer news from Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Newcastle and Tottenham

Tonight’s League Cup semi-final second leg against Aston Villa is likely to be the biggest game of many players’ lives, and the Bantams’ joint-chairman Julian Rhodes said he would happily swap promotion for a Wembley final.

City are on the verge of being the first ever fourth-tier team to reach a Wembley final of a major cup competition after defeating Villa 3-1 at Valley Parade.

Rhodes said: “Let’s be honest, part of the reason our promotion push has faltered lately is the Cup runs. We have had injuries and fatigue does come into play at a time like this.

“But thanks to the Cup run, we have been able to freshen up the squad with a few new signings.

“Without the income from the Cups, we’d have probably been looking at having to sell a couple of players instead. So, again, that shows just how important the Capital One Cup has been to us this season.

“If we could now get to the final, the financial benefits would mean us being able to have another really good crack at promotion next year.

“I know people talk about the league being the priority, but I would not have swapped our Cup run for anything.

“The Barnet chairman asked me before our game down there (on January 5) if I’d take a defeat against them if it meant we beat Villa in the first leg a few days later and I agreed that I would!”

A travelling contingent of 6,500 City fans will head to Villa Park this evening to hopefully witness City’s greatest night in modern times.

Meanwhile, Phil Parkinson insists Bradford City’s preparations for tonight’s League Cup semi-final at Aston Villa have not been unduly disrupted by the heavy snowfall that has fallen across the country over the past 24 hours.

He said: “Training has been limited. Leeds kindly let us use their indoor facility on Saturday morning, which was great of them. The lads had Sunday off, but then, thanks to the weather, we struggled to find anywhere to train (yesterday morning). So we went down to Burton to train at St George’s Park. It was important we got the lads out training before the game at Villa Park.”

The big talk about tonight’s City team news is whether centre-back and first-leg hero Carl McHugh will retain his place in the starting line up, or whether Parkinson will give a debut to new signing Michael Nelson.

Villa captain Ron Vlaar returned against West Brom at the weekend and looks likely to start, especially as Nathan Baker picked up an injury. Indeed, City’s best chance at victory may be to have a go at Villa’s notoriously leaky backline which conceded more shots in the first leg than Bradford’s.

Looking for positives ahead of tonight’s clash, Villa’s manager Paul Lambert said: “Bradford’s form is probably not as good as they would like it to be. It can happen. You have a big night against someone midweek and you go and lose your next league game because it is hard to sustain that level.

“But it’s about us (tonight) and what we do. It is our home game and we know what we have to do.”

The national press have been struck with cup-fever this morning, typically focusing on the Premier League club – in an interview with the Daily Mirror, Villa hitman Christian Benteke said: “We know what we have to do and want to win this game. It is going to be a massive chance for us and the club. I like it when you have a lot riding on the matches and extra motivation.”

Newcastle target Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa expected on Tyneside for a medical on Tuesday ahead of a £6.7million move, despite late interest from Arsenal.

Full story: Daily Mirror

QPR and Tottenham target Yann M’Vila could be about to join Rubin Kazan in the Russian Premier League.

Full story: Daily Mirror

Brendan Rodgers is confident of completing the £8 million signing of Inter Milan midfielder Philippe Coutinho before Liverpool’s FA Cup tie with Oldham.

Full story: Daily Telegraph

Jose Mourinho has been paving the way for a sensational return to Chelsea by regularly texting and phoning Blues owner Roman Abramovich.

Full story: Daily Star

Manchester United are poised to make a shock move for Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina.

Full story: Daily Express

Arsenal have declared their intent to strengthen their midfield, by submitting a £4m bid for Florian Thauvin.

Full story: Daily Express

 

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