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Crunch time for Villa - O'Neill

19 Feb 2010 16:33:32

Crunch time for Villa - O'Neill

Villa are facing up to a crucial seven days that will see them play Burnley in the Premier League on Sunday, Crystal Palace in an FA Cup fifth-round replay on Wednesday and then face Manchester United in the Carling Cup final at Wembley next Sunday. It is a spell of games O'Neill is relishing but he accepts three such important matches in such a short period of time are going to test his squad to the absolute limit. O'Neill, whose side are still firmly in the shake-up for the top four, said: "It is going to be a really big week for us commencing on Sunday and going through to the following Sunday. We will see where we stand after Wembley. "Naturally, I will treat each game on its merit. It will be very difficult for the vast majority of players to appear in all three games. "It may be that we will have to make changes. Each game is so very important, with the FA Cup replay against Crystal Palace on Wednesday the next hurdle after we play against Burnley." Villa are facing a Burnley side who are battling to avoid relegation and who have not won an away game this season. But there is no way O'Neill will be underestimating the challenge his side face against the Lancashire outfit. Villa needed a late equaliser to earn a 1-1 draw at Turf Moor in November, and O'Neill expects another tough test. He added: "The game against Burnley at Turf Moor was very difficult. "The conditions were wretched. I don't think we played particularly well in the first half. They took the lead and deserved it. "We decided to throw on our trump card, Emile Heskey. Amazingly, it came up and we got away with a 1-1 draw. "Playing Burnley is a game not to be taken lightly. We are certainly not good enough to treat anyone lightly. I have said that for three and a half years and it still holds." But the fact Burnley are fighting for Premier League survival and have struggled so badly on their travels does put added pressure on Villa, and that is a fact not lost on O'Neill. O'Neill said: "It is a game with a heavy expectation on us. We will have to deal with that and try and get over the line, try and win the game and see where we stand with the players. "I don't think it will be easy. I saw Burnley play Fulham (in a 3-0 defeat last week). Admittedly, they didn't play well in the game but they had a number of injuries and those players will be back again for the game against Villa. "Like us, all their best players will be available. In our case, it makes a big difference to the team." Villa are boosted by the return to the side of 12-goal striker Gabriel Agbonlahor after he missed last weekend's FA Cup tie at Palace with a leg injury. Fellow forward Heskey is also fit to play after being forced off with a groin problem against Palace. Carling Cup 2009/10 Win Outright: Aston Villa 7/4


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