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Stingy Villa impress football manager O´Neill

4 December 2008 02:50

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."

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