Aston Villa will take on Manchester City this weekend looking to provide a bit of a shock at Wembley and prevent the Cityzens from winning their third trophy on the bounce. It has been seven years since a club from outside the big six won the second domestic trophy in England, and the club from the Second City will be looking to change all that.
But Villa have more than just a League Cup final on their plates. They could drop into the Premier League relegation zone this weekend and currently sit just one point clear of 19th placed Watford. Having spent £143 million since securing promotion to the top flight, they are under serious pressure to stay there.
On this week’s Ask The Fans, we spoke to one Villa fan and one Birmingham fan, to pose them the hypothetical ‘League Cup Vs relegation’ dilemma. The Blues, of course, were the last team to win the trophy and be relegated in the same season, back in 2011.
Regan Foy - Editor of Under a Gaslit Lamp - Aston Villa
Would you rather win the League Cup or avoid relegation this season?
Why not both? I think both are possible - but if you were to give me an ultimatum of one or the other, I'd personally say avoiding relegation. That might be because of my age. It's been 24 years since we last won a major trophy, but judging by how often we've been getting to cup finals over the last decade, I think I could wait a little bit longer for some silverware. I'd rather stay up and not have the work our owners have made undone - even if we are 'a year ahead of schedule' in what they had planned for the club.
Is football not about winning trophies rather than simply competing in the bottom half of the Premier League?
Of course. But what good is relegation? How can we grow as a club if we go back down after a year? I would rather sacrifice this trophy if it meant we were going to stay up, for a chance at winning more silverware in the future. We go down and we have to rebuild again, rather than build on the foundations laid this season - we're rich, we have talent and youth coming through - everything is set for us to potentially kick on from here. But not if we're relegated. A trophy would be incredible, don't get me wrong, but my view is a little more long term.
Do you think that if you win on Sunday your mind could be changed? Are you trying to play down your chances as you are not favourites?
Personally, no - I think the fan base is relatively divided on what it wants in regards to the cup or survival. Like I said earlier, we could even have both - but if I had to pick one, I think the long term plan is more important than a quick cup and then back down to the Championship. Don’t get me wrong, the silverware would further cement the incredible job Dean Smith has done in the past year and a bit.
Mark Watson - Host of We Are Weekly - Birmingham City
As a Birmingham fan, would you have swapped your League Cup win to remain in the Premier League?
Not in a million lifetimes. I'd have rather dropped two divisions than lose that day from my memory! A club like ours will bounce around forever and the Championship is likely to be our final resting place but cup finals are so rare to the majority of clubs and actually going on to lift the cup is even rarer.
It might sound a bit 'smalltime' to fans of the 'Big Six' but that day out at Wembley will always trump years of Premier League relegation/mid-table battles. I'd much rather have that single day of glory than years of struggling to compete with the wealth of the big boys
Is football about winning trophies rather than simply competing in the bottom half of the Premier League?
100%. I would guess that the Villa fans’ response was more of a 'big picture' outlook. Villa know that if they go down, the likes of Grealish, Mings, McGinn and Samatta will all jump ship. I believe they're the second highest transfer deficit in Europe this season (I think!). They've spent an absolute fortune and they're not likely to recoup too much of that if they drop to the Championship.
I've got a few Villa mates and they're all genuinely worried about their club's financial future if they go down.
It may also be the case that the fan you spoke to is trying to save face already and I wonder if that fan is preparing his defence before the inevitable happens. If you're not winning trophies, then why are we all here? It surely is the goal of any and all football teams.
Finally, is that League Cup win the greatest moment as a football supporter? Could anything surpass it for you?
Realistically, yes. To date, it is anyway. We're still in the FA Cup and you never know what could happen there but unless some mega-rich oil baron decides to buy the club, the Champions League and Premier League titles will always be beyond our reach.
The League Cup is probably very far down the Man City priority list but I imagine a win for Villa will be their biggest achievement since the turn of the century. Even if they have referred to it as the 'Mickey Mouse Cup' ever since we beat Arsenal in the final nine years ago to the day