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06 February 2009 05:02
Blackburn 0-2 Aston VillaSoccer Saturday analysis

Charlie Nicholas says Aston Villa have enough belief to claim a Champions League place, even though they weren't at their best against Blackburn.

Nicholas watched Martin O'Neill's side win 2-0 at Blackburn on Saturday afternoon to go third in the table and end Sam Allardyce's unbeaten record as Rovers boss.

And while he feels Villa are not the strongest defensive unit, their attacking threat makes them genuine contenders for a top-four finish this season.

"I think they are probably starting to believe," he told Soccer Saturday.

"Their performance was not great compared to some of the top-class performances we've seen from this outfit, but it's just rolling along. Villa are just moving and have got momentum.

"They really struggled at times at the back, Knight and Davies struggled with Roberts in particular and McCarthy.

"But Villa had more than enough chances in the first half to wrap the game up and they certainly deserved to win, there's no doubt in my mind about that.

"The late goal to make it 2-0 was maybe a bit flattering, but with some of the chances they did have they should have won the game way, way before."

RunVilla have now enjoyed an astonishing run of seven away win on the bounce - a feat only previously achieved by Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs in the top flight.

Nicholas says that success can be put down to the shrewd work of manager Martin O'Neill and his ability to get the best out of his players.

He said: "You've got somebody like Luke Young, who's an out-and-out right-back and Carlos Cuellar who is a centre-back, but the manager puts them in different positions and they manage to look fairly comfortable and know exactly what's required of them.

"They're very efficient and the one player I thought really stood out was the player under pressure for a new contract, Petrov.

"When I saw him at Celtic he would go beyond strikers, get chances and was a smart finisher. Today he was a very efficient player all round.

"And the goalkeeper (Brad Friedel) is so reliable. There were a couple of things he flapped at and got away with, but that's what a lucky goalkeeper does. He's a good goalkeeper who can take the pressure off.

"All round I still think their squad is a little bit weak. The squad isn't bad but it is a little bit small. You've got the FA Cup and UEFA Cup coming up - but they just keep rolling and winning.

"There's pressure on Chelsea, there's pressure on Liverpool now. All the compliments need to go to the manager and how he keeps rolling this bandwagon along.

The next league game is at home to Chelsea and if they were to take Chelsea's scalp - and you wouldn't put it past them - not only does it give them unbelievable belief that they belong in the top four, but Arsenal will suddenly be looking at Chelsea as the ones to catch, not Villa.

"That would be an unbelievable compliment to Aston Villa."

DangerBut while Villa are flying, Blackburn remain in the relegation zone and Nicholas feels they need to start creating more chances and getting more crosses in if they are to drag themselves out of danger.

"They've got a lot of work to do," he added.

"Blackburn played alright. I like Roberts, I know he's not a very good finisher, but he causes so much disruption to defenders. McCarthy wasn't as good today as I've seen him recently.

"The midfield was alright. Big Sam has tried Pedersen wide right and Dunn played wide left and keeps cutting inside.

"When you see Big Sam's teams sides he wants them down the flanks and whipping balls in with pace at good angles.

"They didn't get that option today."

Source: SKY_Sports