x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Everton's grit earns O'Neill praise

Martin O'Neill, the Villa manager, is particularly fulsome in his praise of what David Moyes, his Everton counterpart, has achieved.

They are two sides who are trying to challenge the Premier League's top clubs without the same resources. Martin O'Neill, the Villa manager, is particularly fulsome in his praise of what David Moyes, his Goodison Park counterpart, has achieved, expecting a tough test in their FA Cup fifth round meeting. "There is a great durability about them," said the Irishman. "They played a couple of months without two centre-forwards and had midfielders doing the job in a makeshift role, but their results didn't suffer.

"They have found ways to win when they haven't had the players fit. I have the utmost regard for the football club and the job the manager has done there." O'Neill has also gained plaudits for the way he has shaped a Villa side full of speed, style and strength. They are outside challengers for the Premier League and in the hunt for the FA and Uefa Cups. The league is his priority and he is fuming at England's decision to play Emile Heskey against Spain when the striker was troubled by an Achilles injury. Now O'Neill will call on his squad reserves to step up. Everton's defence has been almost impenetrable recently and Joleon Lescott hopes they can keep it up against his boyhood team.

"I supported Villa as a boy and I'll always have good memories, but we'll go in there to do a job and hopefully get through to the next round," he said. "The last round was huge, beating Liverpool, but we don't want to beat Liverpool then fall out to Villa." akhan@thenational.ae