x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

No pressure, just excitement insists O'Neill

Martin O'Neill and his Aston Villa side will use a break in Dubai as a chance to regroup and rebuild for a "mini-season" to salvage their Champions League dream.

Martin O'Neill and his Aston Villa side will use a break in Dubai as a chance to regroup and rebuild for a "mini-season" to salvage their Champions League dream. A 2-0 defeat at Manchester City has left them just three points ahead of Arsenal in the contest for fourth spot - a battle just as riveting that for the title. The Emirates break could help refresh them for the final 10 games and O'Neill does not think Villa are feeling the pressure.

"It can't be nerves affecting us because we have never been in this position before," he said. "I genuinely think the players are excited by the challenge ahead. "We have a really difficult run-in, but we are now down to a 10-game season. I accept we are a bit naive and the big four sides have a little bit more know-how, but that shouldn't stop us from relishing the challenge ahead." The defender Luke Young added: "Hopefully we can come back [after the break] and start putting in performances like we did earlier in the season.

"If we don't finish fourth it is down to ourselves. We don't need to worry about others, it's down to ourselves." While Villa were below-par, City were outstanding with their slick play a joy to watch. It was a performance which their manager, Mark Hughes, described as possibly his side's best this season. Shaun Wright-Phillips, who was on target along with Elano, was the catalyst in his return after a three-match league suspension.

He said: "I've been a real pain at the training ground so it is nice to be back. As a team we know what we are capable of, it's all about going out on the pitch and producing it, which is exactly what we did." @Email:akhan@thenational.ae