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01 October 2023

Villa boss O'Neill in FA Cup keeper selection dilemma


Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill is not a huge fan of rotating players, but he is ready to make one key selection decision for the FA Cup fifth round trip to Crystal Palace on Sunday that could spell Wembley heartbreak for goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

O'Neill has utilised Guzan in all Villa's domestic cup matches so far this season, but is almost certain to leave out the young American in favour of using the vast experience of fellow countryman Brad Friedel as Villa bid to make another step towards securing a second trip to Wembley this season.

Leaving Guzan out of the meeting with Championship side Palace will have huge significance two weeks before Villa face Manchester United in the League Cup final on February 28.

However, O'Neill has been concerned with the youngster's ability to handle the bigger occasions since his nervous performance in the 6-4 win over Blackburn in the second leg of the League Cup semi-final last month.

In stark contrast, Friedel has kept eight clean sheets in his previous 11 games and is a major contender for the Golden Gloves trophy this season.

O'Neill feels it would be safer to opt for the experience of the former Blackburn goalkeeper as he bids to add the one domestic trophy that has eluded him during his career as a player and manager.

"Tough decisions are what I am paid to make and they have to be made at certain times. This is one of those times and it is something that I will have to look at. I have been thinking about the situation for some time now," O'Neill said.

"Brad (Guzan) has done fantastically well to get us this far in the cup competitions. He has been a fantastic understudy to the other Brad and I have said on many occasions that many Premier League clubs would be glad to have him as their number one."


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