Gabby can terrorise Blues - O'Neill

24 April 2010 10:43
Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor has been tipped to again terrorise Birmingham in Sunday's Premier League encounter at Villa Park.

Agbonlahor has been targeted by Birmingham supporters in recent derbies.

But all it has done is driven on the England international who has scored three times in the last three matches against Birmingham - including the winner when Villa won 1-0 at St Andrew's last September.

The 23-year-old will head into the latest encounter on a high after taking his tally for the season to 16 in the 2-0 midweek win at Hull.

Villa manager Martin O'Neill said: "He takes plenty of abuse from the Birmingham fans.

"It does seem to drive him on. His record seems to suggest that fact.

"He has always played exceptionally well in these derby games since I've been involved.

"His record in the derby is fantastic and I hope that on Sunday it remains that way."

O'Neill believes there is still more to come from Agbonlahor and he added: "He scored a great goal against Hull but I think he can improve even further.

"People have asked me this question all season and I think he is capable of scoring more goals.

"His overall game has improved immensely. But if you take a leaf out of Wayne Rooney's book, he decided that he was going to improve his heading and look what has happened to him.

"Wayne Rooney is a world-class player anyway.

But he still thought he could improve his game and if Wayne Rooney thinks he needs to improve his game well it should be the same for any centre forward."

More goals from Agbonlahor in the final three games of the season could well prove to be crucial as Villa chase a lucrative spot in the Champions League with a place in the Europa League all but assured after FA Cup finalists Portsmouth were refused.

He added: "I will be thrilled if we can qualify for European football for the third successive season.

"Last season we finished sixth on 62 points and people have talked about our end of season dip but this year we have not only prevented that but we have gone on.

"After the 7-1 hammering at Chelsea we could have gone under the hammer but we have fought back brilliantly taking 10 out of the last 12 points including three wins away from home.

"So our form has been quite strong but I said at the start of the season that the concerns I would have would be with a rejuvenated Tottenham and a very strong financial interest in Manchester City which you know will yield very good players and that they could break the mould and make Champions League football.

"So to finish the season where we were last year was going to be exceptionally hard.

"We have not been out of the top seven all season and it has been a tribute to the players that we have kept going."

To have any chance of finishing fourth, Villa will have to win their final three games and O'Neill knows Birmingham would love nothing better than to derail their top-four bid.

"Birmingham, of course, will be trying to prevent us getting into Europe.

"But I do look forward to these local derby games.

In my time I have been involved in some big matches.

"If you can get a result that is all the better and after it is over it is a case of a bit of relief."

Source: Team_Talk