Villa aiming to take advantage of fixture schedule as they look to rise above the Reds again Have Liverpool stolen a march in the race for fourth place? Rafa Benitez' Reds claimed a superb 1-0 derby day win against Everton on Saturday which put them three points clear of Villa, who have a game in hand. The Claret and Blue were cancelled out by Spurs at White Hart Lane and fans of both sides were left wondering whether the top four is set to revert to the status quo for the rest of the season. Manchester City also faltered to hand Steven Gerrard and co the chance to slot back into the big time and make Rafa's guarantee of Champions League football next season look a little more secure. But, the challengers to the big four must not lose heart just yet. Villa, in particular, are in the middle of a horror run of fixtures, during which they have faced Arsenal (twice), Liverpool and Spurs. Next up it's a nice easy one against Manchester United, who have been firing on all cylinders in 2010 and have the rampant Wayne Rooney
up front. But all is not lost for Martin O'Neill's men. Once they have disposed of United, they will be set to take on a few of the Premier League's lesser lights including Burnley, Sunderland and Wigan. If they do not let themselves get set overawed by the minor occasion that is the Carling Cup final, then the Claret and Blue boys can indeed break up that big four picture. Distraction Liverpool have had a good run of fixtures of late, taking on the likes of Owen Coyle's Bolton and struggling Wolves. They may have risen to prominence after an awful run but they are far from out of the woods yet. Benitez' men take on Arsenal at the Emirates on Saturday, with the Gunners looking to bounce back from defeats to their title rivals. And the Anfield alliance will then make the trip to Eastlands to take on Man City, just three days after dealing with the distraction that is the Europa League. So, it seems that talk of Liverpool's resurgence may soon come to an end. Of course, they remain a talented bunch and with Gerrard and Torres fit they are a match for anyone, but Villa remain firmly in the hunt for a place among the pantheon of English football. And if they can take advantage of their more than favourable run in then they could well be toasting the season with some Champions League champagne.