x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

O'Neill's troops ready to go fourth into battle

The battle for the Premier League's fourth Champions League spot is reaching a crucial stage and Martin O'Neill is allowing Aston Villa no time to relax.

The battle for the Premier League's fourth Champions League spot is reaching a crucial stage and Martin O'Neill is allowing Aston Villa no time to relax. The Villa manager thinks closest rivals Arsenal will have been "re-energised" rather than exhausted by their extra-time mid-week triumph away to Roma. The Gunners are through to the last eight of this season's competition - and still involved in the FA Cup - while Villa have only the Premier League left to compete in, but O'Neill does not think that will make any difference.

Villa, entertain Tottenham today, and O'Neill said: "Did Arsenal's exertions in midweek help Villa? I didn't see it that way at all. "I think Arsenal will be re-energised by the result more than anything else. It was a great boost for them. With their players coming back from injury, they will have a pretty strong squad for the final few weeks of the season. Their squad is stronger than ours and they have been there before."

O'Neill feels the Villa players have reaped the benefits of a five-day break in Dubai and are ready for the challenges ahead. He said: "The break has done the players a world of good and I think they are all set for what is in effect a 10-game season. "It is up to us. We have to try to get ourselves going again at Villa Park, try to win a match there, and we are capable of doing it." The Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp wants his side to follow the example of Villa next season and aim to challenge the Premier League's top four.

Spurs have picked up 30 points from 20 games since Redknapp's arrival in October - and he feels they should be aiming high once safety has been secured. "For us be where Villa are? Hopefully next year," Redknapp said. "I would like to be, if you are not looking that way then what are you aiming for? No good saying 'I hope we finish in the top half next year'. We have to hope for better. "The size of this club, the potential, the fan base and the money invested, we should be pushing to get up there shouldn't we?"

* PA Sport