Villa stars gear up for exciting weekend of international action
By Dan Harrison
The highlight of this weekend's international programme is undoubtedly England's clash against Wales at the Millennium Stadium - and Villa can boast having five players involved in the huge Euro 2012 qualifier.
Defender James Collins is charged with the task of stopping England when he lines up for Wales in Saturday's Group G encounter.
With Stewart Downing, Ashley Young, Darren Bent and Kyle Walker all selected in the Three Lions squad, there has been plenty of dressing room banter at Villa's Bodymoor Heath training complex.
Downing predicts an incredible atmosphere in the all-British clash, which will revive memories of the old home international fixtures.
"It was a long time ago since we last played them and we beat them 1-0 at the Millennium," he said.
"They will be up for revenge. It will be a tough game at a nice stadium with a good atmosphere.
"I am looking forward to it and hopefully I will play some part."
Victory for Fabio Capello's team would put them back on top of the group on goal difference, while Wales are still looking for their first points.
Saturday's other Group G fixture is particularly significant for Villa's club captain Stiliyan Petrov.
The midfielder will reach the magic 100-cap mark when he skippers Bulgaria against Switzerland in Sofia.
He will become only the second Bulgarian to reach the milestone and will receive a commemorative plaque from the Bulgarian Football Union.
Richard Dunne and Ciaran Clark could line up together in the Republic of Ireland's back four in the Group B game against FYR Macedonia.
The Irish are in currently in second spot and are looking to put pressure on Russia by picking up three points at Croke Park.
A couple of glamour friendlies are in store for midfield duo Michael Bradley and Barry Bannan.
Bradley finds himself up against the likes of Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguerro when the USA take on Argentina in New York on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Bannan hopes to impress against the boys from Brazil in Scotland's friendly against the Samba sensations at the Emirates on Sunday.
Academy defender Derrick Williams is part of the Republic of Ireland U19s squad for Saturday's friendly against Cyprus, followed by a practice match against Cypriot club side Paralimni U21s on Tuesday.
Villa's first team coach Gordon Cowans, who won 10 England caps during a distinguished playing career, feels the club can be proud of its strong international involvement.
"It is absolutely fantastic for the club that we have got so many players involved, particularly with England," he said.
Check out AVTV's feature on this week's international fixtures, which includes the thoughts of Downing and Cowans - click here.
Downing discusses his previous England experience, the banter with James Collins ahead of the Wales game and how a good showing for the Three Lions can boost confidence.
Cowans talks in detail about his pride at Villa's international involvement and Downing's exceptional form this term.
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