Phil Parkinson cannot wait to see Darren Bent again tonight – as long as it’s on the Aston Villa bench.

They were together for six months at Charlton in 2007 before Bent moved on to Tottenham and Parkinson still rates him as one of the best English hitmen in the game.

The City chief said: “I always sing Darren’s praises to any striker I work with because he takes care with every finish, even if it’s from two yards. He’s a precision finisher.

“His goal record in the Premier League is as good as anybody’s. Look at English strikers and the amount they’ve scored over the past four or five years and he’s right up with them.

“I think he’s been unlucky. He had the spell at Tottenham but he’s played for Charlton, Sunderland and Villa, not clubs who are competing at the top end of the division.

“I’m sure if he’d played for a Man City, Man United or Chelsea he would have scored even more.

“But it will be good to see him this evening, hopefully on their bench.”

Bent scored on his return from a hamstring injury at the weekend against Ipswich. But he could drop down to the subs bench as Paul Lambert considers going with first-choice attack Christian Benteke and Andreas Weimann.

Parkinson is braced for a full-strength Villa and said: “They will be majorly up for this game. It is huge for Aston Villa to get to a Wembley final and it could mean European football.

“We’re under no illusions that they won’t be focused on this game, which maybe was levelled at Arsenal slightly on the night.

“We know what to expect and I think we’ll have to play ahead of what we did against Arsenal to win.”