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O'Neill: Villa seeing Cuellar's best
Published : 18 Dec 2009 13:22:25
Petrov was O'Neill's first signing as Aston Villa boss in a £6million switch from Celtic and it was two seasons before he demonstrated his full potential. Cuellar was bought from Rangers for £5million in the summer of 2008 and he failed to do himself justice last season and often played out of position at right-back. But the Spaniard, who is hoping to force his way into his country's World Cup squad, has been a vastly improved performer during the current campaign and helped Villa into the top four ahead of tomorrow's home clash with Stoke. O'Neill said: "People ask if there are comparisons between Carlos and Stiliyan in taking time to adapt from Scottish football and that would probably be a fair point. "Last season Carlos came to us having had no pre-season whatsoever because of having been stop-start with injuries up at Rangers. "He played a lot of games for us at right-back last season as well, especially when Luke (Young) was out injured towards the end of the season. "But he never complained and got on with it. He has adjusted and got used to the pace of the Premier League. Now we are seeing the best of him. "He has gone into the middle of defence in recent weeks, with James Collins having been injured, which is his real position, and he is playing terrifically for us." O'Neill admits the next few weeks will play a key part in determining Villa's fortunes this season. They have league meetings with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium and a home clash with Liverpool plus a Carling Cup semi-final with Blackburn in early January. He said: "When we beat Blackburn in February last season, we had got to 51 points from 25 games and that was fantastic. We've got a bit of a distance to go to get there. "But the games we've got coming up between now and the new year are big matches plus a couple of semi-final legs to look forward to in January. "These games will give us a pointer to what the second half of the season holds. "I'm not so sure this season is mirroring last season in the sense of we won seven successive away games, which by any stretch of the imagination is fantastic, and to emulate that this season would be very difficult. "But we knew we could try and improve our home record and so far - and I stress so far - it is better than last season. "I am hoping the players have got that inner belief. It is one of those things where it is hard to gain and easy to lose but there is good confidence about them because of the way they are performing. "They are performing individually very well and collectively not bad." O'Neill is unlikely to make any major changes for the visit of Tony Pulis' side as Villa look to cement their push for a Champions League spot after away victories at Manchester United and Sunderland during the past week. Emile Heskey is again expected to be preferred up front to John Carew after scoring his third goal in the last six games in the win at the Stadium Of Light. Aston Villa v Stoke. Click here to bet.