Football: Little's fear of Filbert Street

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The Independent Online
Brian Little, the Aston Villa manager, is anticipating another cold reception when he returns to his former club, Leicester, for tonight's key Premiership game.

Little suffered the brickbats of City fans when he resigned at Filbert Street in November 1994 before moving to Villa Park as Ron Atkinson's successor a few days later. He was greeted with placards proclaiming him as a "Judas" on the only other previous occasion he has taken Villa to Leicester, which was barely a fortnight after his appointment.

Little, who still lives in Leicestershire, said: "The reception I had last time was arguably as hot as anyone has ever had to endure in football and the ferocity of it surprised me. I still get a bit of stick now and then but time heals. I don't think the reception will be as hostile this time but I don't think all the Leicester City supporters will have forgotten the situation."

With three of the top four sides in the Premiership competing in Europe this week, Villa are looking to cement their own claims for a Uefa Cup place after Sunday's crucial victory over Liverpool. Ten points from the last four matches has elevated Villa to fifth position, but Little is keen not to lose the advantage gained from beating Liverpool.

Little said: "The most important thing is to follow up results like that one on Sunday. We know it will be a difficult game at Leicester for all sorts of different reasons but we want to get into that top four at some stage and achieve the place in Europe we are looking for."

Villa will check on the fitness of Steve Staunton, who returned against Liverpool after a spell out with an ankle injury for the first 45 minutes before being replaced.

Leicester, who again have doubts over Ian Marshall and Steve Claridge, are not looking like relegation candidates. Saturday's 3-1 win at Wimbledon took them to the 33-point mark, nine short of the safety target set by their manager, Martin O'Neill. But there are crucial battles facing Nottingham Forest, Southampton and Middlesbrough, three of the four sides languishing at the bottom of the table.

The goalkeeper Mark Crossley returns after a one-match suspension for Forest's match against Sheffield Wednesday while the midfielder Ian Woan is still suspended. Chris Bart-Williams and Kevin Campbell are ruled out through injury.

Middlesbrough, who take on Derby County at the Riverside in a dress rehearsal for Saturday's FA Cup quarter-final at the Baseball Ground, welcome back the defenders Nigel Pearson and Curtis Fleming after injury. Derby's veteran central defender, Paul McGrath, who has been rested for the last two matches, may be recalled.

Southampton, heartened by their 1-0 victory at Newcastle at the weekend, face Everton.

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