Aston Villa defender Ron Vlaar is confident of a good finish to the Barclays Premier League season despite his team's lowly position.
Villa have four games left to save themselves - starting on Monday night against Sunderland, where three points would draw Paul Lambert's side level with the Black Cats and Newcastle and put five points between them and 18th-placed Wigan. It is the first time Vlaar has been involved in a relegation battle and, although the season has not gone as planned, the Dutchman has taken encouragement from recent displays.
"I know last year wasn't easy and it hasn't been this year. Of course I hoped it would be better but we are in the situation we are in and we have to make sure we get out of it," he said.
"I think we've shown that we can play football, but most of the time it was not for 90 minutes in a game and that has cost us a lot of points. A lot of things are being said a lot of times with the age of the squad and things like that.
"I think we are improving. If you see the results from the last weeks, we lost against (Manchester) City, Arsenal, Liverpool and (Manchester) United and we won against almost all the teams around us, with only a draw against Fulham and we should have won that game.
"That's good and they are teams who we have to get points against, so that gives confidence. The second-half performance (against Manchester United on Monday) was something to hold on to and we have had very good training this week and I saw a lot of confidence, so that's good."
Whether Villa stay up or go down, they are likely to face a fight to keep hold of striker Christian Benteke. The 22-year-old has been a huge success in a difficult season for Villa, scoring 19 goals in his first campaign in England following a summer move from Genk. Vlaar is happy he does not have to face the big Belgian too often in training, saying:
"He's unbelievably strong. Fortunately when we play 11 versus 11 he's always on my team because most of the time we are getting ready for the next game.
"He's only 22. I don't think there are young players who have done more than him this season. He has been very important and he will be important again in these last couple of games for us."