Villa still chasing play-off place
Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel expects the battle to finish fourth in the Premier League to go right to the wire. Villa, who face Everton at home tonight, are currently eight points behind fourth-placed Manchester City. The clash with David Moyes' side is their game in hand on City, while they also have to face Roberto Mancini's men in their penultimate match of the season. While overhauling an eight-point deficit in the space of six games is going to be tough, Friedel does not think it is impossible. The veteran American said: "We know how important the next six matches are and we will be up for all those games. "We all have difficult run-ins, especially Tottenham, and we have still got to play Manchester City. It is going to come down to the last game or two. It's going to be really tight." Manager Martin O'Neill shares the view that Villa can still end their season on a high to make up for the disappointment of being beaten twice at Wembley in the Carling Cup final and FA Cup semi-final. The Everton game gives Villa a chance to quickly get Saturday's FA Cup semi-final defeat at the hands of Chelsea out of their system. O'Neill said: "The best thing is for us is to look forward immediately to the Everton game as there is still plenty to play for in the Premiership. "I think I have a fair amount of experience as a player and a manager to get over disappointments. The players are in remarkably good spirits and they have accepted the recent disappointments with a degree of frustration. "I think they will use their own motivation against Everton to overcome those disappointments. Some players are really in good form and I hope that we will able to elevate our game. "The points are there to be played for over the coming weeks and we need to be winning the vast majority of the remaining six games. "We still have Manchester City to play, for instance, who are considered favourites to get the fourth spot because they have points on the board. "At this stage of the season that is the answer to everyone's problems. But looking at the run-ins of the clubs involved, none are very easy. "I still think it is worth striving for and this is the point I am emphasising to everyone involved with Villa. You cannot look too far into the future. The most important issue for us is to try and beat Everton. That is essential. "Everton will feel more refreshed than us after a 10-day break but I think my players will throw caution to the wind and go for everything and there is plenty of renewed determination to see this season through successfully. "This is also a very important game for Everton because there is also the chance of a European place for them and they will fight as hard as they can as they will certainly think they can catch us." O'Neill could retain the side which started at Wembley and is relieved to be able to call on James Milner after the challenge the England midfielder found himself on the end of from Chelsea skipper John Terry. "James is obviously bruised but he has been remarkably lucky," said O'Neill. "I hope that he can stay clear of injury between now the end of the season as he will have a great chance of going to South Africa with England this summer, which I think he richly deserves."
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