Gerard Houllier has praised Martin O'Neill for the job he did at Aston Villa and revealed he often expected to be replaced by him at Liverpool.[LNB] Houllier is pleased with the solid base and promising squad O'Neill has left at his disposal after twice narrowly missing out on securing a Champions League spot.[LNB]Now Houllier will try to take Villa to the next level once he has tied up the loose ends with the French Football Federation where he worked as technical director.[LNB]Caretaker-boss Kevin MacDonald will take charge of Monday's clash at Stoke which Houllier will watch on television in his homeland.[LNB]Houllier said: "Several times I thought Martin would succeed me at Liverpool.[LNB]"All I know is that he a great manager and brought up a good squad at Aston Villa. This is one of the reasons we have a good base to work from.[LNB]"It is difficult to succeed to him - but it is always difficult to succeed to anybody. When it is difficult, it is exciting.[LNB]"I trust the squad, I trust the players, I believe there is potential here to do something well.[LNB]"I know that Martin was nearly there. One player left (James Milner) but another one came (Stephen Ireland) who is quite skilful too.[LNB]"We will do our best to achieve what we want and more. It will take time but we know that.[LNB]"My philosophy is progress, performance, and pleasure."[LNB]Houllier will eventually look to strengthen the squad further although he hinted the January transfer window is not the ideal time for big changes.[LNB]He said: "We know at some stage we need to improve the team gradually.[LNB]"But I don't think January is always a good period because you don't get the best (players) but we'll prepare for the future.[LNB]"I am quite happy with the squad. When people say Aston Villa is a good club, they also add that they have got good players.[LNB]"They must have because they finished in a Europa League position (sixth)."[LNB]MacDonald will be at the helm for a sixth successive match against Stoke.[LNB]He has rejected the chance to be part of Houllier's first team coaching set-up and will revert to his role as reserve team coach.[LNB]MacDonald will have to check on the fitness of Ireland before finalising his side.[LNB]The former Manchester City player suffered a hamstring injury during the warm-up against Everton in Villa's last match a fortnight ago.