BIRMINGHAM, England (AFP) - Martin O'Neill believes Aston Villa's stingy defence will shut out Slovakian side MSK Zilina on Thursday and ease his team into the UEFA Cup knockout stages.
After wins over Ajax and Slavia Prague put Villa in control of Group F, O'Neill's side are one win away from effectively securing qualification from a tough group.
Although O'Neill was frustrated by Villa's goalless draw against Fulham on Saturday, he took heart from the way his defence recorded a third consecutive cleansheet.
O'Neill sees signs that the back four, marshalled by centre backs Carlos Cuellar and Martin Laursen, can match the notoriously parsimonious defences at Liverpool and Chelsea.
"Look at the top sides. Liverpool have conceded very few this season and so have Chelsea," said O'Neill.
"Manchester United conceded very few when they won the title last season.
"For all the quality and flair of Sir Alex Ferguson's men, who can conjure a moment's brilliance from nowhere, they know how important it is to stay tight and keep clean sheets. That is something we have to work on.
"If you told me we would win the next seven games 5-4, I'd take it obviously. Don't get me wrong it would be great and very exciting for the fans. But we have to be less generous and there are signs that this is happening."
With Villa's participation in the next round all but secure, O'Neill is likely to rest England striker Gabriel Agbonlahor against Zilina.
He will still demand a victory however and Villa defender Luke Young is confident the team will put the disappointment of being held by Fulham behind them.
"The chances were there on Saturday but we didn't put them away. On another day, you perhaps win 1-0 and then move onto the next week. Everyone was disappointed afterwards and it almost felt like a defeat," Young said.
"The lads were a bit low in the dressing room afterwards because we knew what an opportunity it had been, league-wise, to push ourselves up the table.
"I don't think we played particularly poorly, we just didn't score. I don't think it was terrible.
"We are not too down. It was definitely two points lost but we are moving on again and must make sure."
|I´m still a Colchonero – Griezmann rejects claims Man Utd deal is done|
|Tearful Mbappe wishes Bernardo Silva well at Manchester City|
|WATCH: Pablo Zabaleta surprises Manchester City fans|
|Bernardo Silva: You don´t say no to Pep Guardiola!|
|Manchester City swoop for Monaco star Silva|
|Wenger: Arsenal stadium move the most difficult time of my life|
|Tuchel has ´goosebumps´ from Dortmund´s Pokal run|
|Sanchez named Arsenal´s Player of the Year as Ozil misses top three|
|Ronaldo agreed he needed more rest, says Zidane|
|Outgoing Barcelona boss Luis Enrique vows he will not change|
|Bale resumes Real Madrid training ahead of Champions League final|
|Neymar has evolved but he needs trophies, says Luis Enrique|
|Passionate Totti should play on, says Conte|
|Baby, I´m coming home! Evra could not be happier about Old Trafford return|
|Liverpool youngster Woodburn ´never really considered´ swapping Wales for England|
|Gattuso completes AC Milan return|
|Kitchee 1 Tottenham 4: Son, Kane strike as Spurs round off season in style|
|Coutinho perfect for Barcelona - Tite|
|Luis Enrique accepts he has not pleased everyone at Barcelona|
|He´s one of the greatest - Conte does not expect Wenger to leave Arsenal|
|Pogba would have left for €60m had we inserted buyout clause - Marotta|
|Sevilla and Argentina reach agreement on Sampaoli|
|Pique says referees ´have influenced LaLiga´ as Barcelona defender again calls for VAR|
|Valencia signs Manchester United extension|
|West Ham snap up Zabaleta|
|Luis Enrique needs more than Copa del Rey to secure place in Barcelona history|
|Juventus not resting Dybala and Higuain ahead of Champions League final|
|Champions League final to be played under closed roof for first time|
|Allegri keen to open contract talks with Juventus|
|Darmian wants Manchester United stay|
|Familiar surroundings, but uncertainty shrouds Arsenal´s 20th FA Cup final|
|Stoke tie down Cameron, Bardsley as Given departs|
|Asensio: Zidane used to be my idol|
|RB Leipzig rule out Keita, Werner and Forsberg sales amid Liverpool links|
|Pokal glory should force Watzke and Tuchel to kiss and make up|
|Oxlade-Chamberlain studying Alves before FA Cup final|
|PSG have gone backwards under Emery – Coupe de France glory won´t change that|
|Klopp can attract top players to Liverpool, says Gerrard|
|Napoli block Milik and Zielinski from Poland U21 duty|
|The curious case of Costa - how Diego will be remembered if he leaves Chelsea|
|He is not a hero, he is a God - Eriksson hails departing Roma icon Totti|
|Copa Libertadores Review: Gremio storm into last 16, Guarani through|
|Chicago Fire 2 FC Dallas 1: Schweinsteiger´s men stay hot with fourth straight win|
|Keane: Football is unimportant after Manchester attack|
|Prandelli to replace Petrescu at Al Nasr|
|Zaha signs long-term Palace deal|
|Barca offered more money but Vinicius preferred Madrid - Pena|
|David Luiz took pay cut to return to Chelsea|
|Eredivisie play-off between MVV and Roda halted by crowd trouble|
|No way forward for Monk at Leeds amid Middlesbrough links|
|Troyes 2 Lorient 1: Late Nivet strike settles play-off first leg|
|Wolfsburg 1 Eintracht Braunschweig 0: Gomez penalty earns first-leg lead|
|Gattuso denies return to AC Milan is a step back|
|Man Utd´s Europa League title gave Manchester a lift - Ferguson|
|Arbeloa, Calleri and Tore leave West Ham|
|Hull City confirm Marco Silva exit|
|I really want a title - Sokratis hints at Dortmund departure|
|Italy include Berardi in experimental squad to face San Marino|
|Man Utd boss Mourinho gets his way on Rashford as Southgate backs down over Under-21s|
|Norwich appoint Farke as Neil´s successor|
|Monk leaves Leeds after Radrizzani takeover|
|Arsenal must get in Hazard´s face, says Ramsey|
|Sagna departs as Manchester City exodus continues|
|Moses has no plan to stop Arsenal star Sanchez|
|Caballero the latest to depart Manchester City|
|England boss Southgate explains dropping Rooney|
|Cillessen could consider Barcelona exit in January|
|Navas leaves Manchester City|
|Man Utd captain Rooney: I have lots of offers|
|Manchester City confirm Clichy departure|
|Mandzukic extends Juventus deal to 2020|
|Suarez out for 15 days with thigh injury|
|Ronaldo in Portugal´s Confederations Cup squad as Sanches misses out|
|Totti confirms Genoa will be his final Roma game|
|´Arsenal win would be a shock – Mertesacker is playing!´|
|Playing with Cristiano Ronaldo still hasn´t sunk in, says new Real Madrid signing Vinicius Junior|
|Liverpool goalkeeper Manninger to retire|
|He loves us! – Levy certain Pochettino will stay at Tottenham|
|Rooney left out of England squad to play Scotland and France|
|Herrera would welcome Griezmann at Manchester United|
|City and United join forces with £1m donation to Manchester emergency fund|
|Iniesta unsure over long-term Barcelona future|
|Makelele role is now the Kante role - Chelsea icon Claude passes baton to N´Golo|
|Willian wants Chelsea stay amid Manchester United rumours|
|Boateng rules out Bayern exit|
|Klopp wants Liverpool transfer dealings wrapped up as soon as possible|
|Barcelona express Messi support after lost appeal|
|Valverde a good option for Barcelona – Pique|
|Pogba: I´d be very happy if Juve won Champions League|
|Copa Libertadores Review: Palmeiras, Wilstermann progress|
|Chinese FA cracks down on soaring transfer fees to place Costa deal in doubt|
|Mata and Smalling describe extra Europa League motivation after Manchester attacks|
|Herrera dedicates Europa League trophy to Manchester victims|
|Bosz admits Ajax were overawed by Stockholm showpiece|
|From ´The Special One´ to ´The Humble One´ - Mourinho felt he was the worst manager in the world|
|Mourinho plays down talk of Silva move|
|Atletico Madrid don´t expect Manchester United to match Griezmann´s €100m clause|
|Ibrahimovic: My future? Let´s see|
|Mourinho wants Rooney stay and urges Woodward to start working on transfers|
|Poets don´t win titles – Mourinho defiant after Ajax criticise Manchester United approach|
|Bosz unimpressed by Manchester United: Ajax did not have to lose to this team|