Gerard Houllier wants to retain Brad Friedel at Aston Villa

Gerard Houllier has revealed his desire to retain veteran keeper Brad Friedel, whose current contract runs out next summer.

Friedel joined Villa from Blackburn in the summer of 2007 and has been a consistent performer, keeping a firm grip on the number one jersey.

When asked about a new contract for Friedel, Houllier said ahead of Sunday's derby with Birmingham: "I think it's too early to speak about that, but definitely yes (in terms of staying).

"At the moment, he's doing a good job, a very good job. He's very professional.

"With a player after the age of 30, you need to sometimes take into consideration certain things.

"When you have the opportunity to rest them, do it. But he's a good professional.

"He has always been like that. Everywhere he went I have never heard anything against him in terms of dedication, commitment, preparation.

"The boys like him as well."

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish is confident midfielder Alexander Hleb will be fit for Sunday's derby.

The on-loan Barcelona player suffered a twisted knee during last weekend's 2-0 win over Blackpool.

McLeish said: "Guys like Hleb are still trying to find full fitness. He is still missing training days.

"We really need him to get in full weeks of training to get him up to speed so that is a little disruptive in terms of momentum.

"But we saw the signs against Blackpool of a very entertaining player and he is fit to play on Sunday."

In another derby, Newcastle welcome Sunderland to St James' Park having lost three of their last four games there.

Asked about that run of results, manager Chris Hughton's response bore his distinctive trademark.

He said: "What we do know is we have done very well away from home, but we need to address our home form.

"I am aware that we need to be making sure we are picking up some results, and it would be an ideal game to do it in."

Sunderland boss Steve Bruce will put his faith in youth once again as he attempts to launch his Tyne-Wear derby campaign with a victory.

Geordie-born Bruce has never even watched the local rivals lock horns before, but will have one of the best seats in the house at St James' Park on Sunday.

Bruce said: "Certainly what we have got is a young, hungry, aggressive team which can only get better.

"As I look through the midfield four, for example, Danny Welbeck is 19, Lee Cattermole is 22, Jordan Henderson is 20, Ahmed Elmohamady is 23, so they are all just learning their trade.

"But that's what we wanted, that's what I wanted and Niall (Quinn) has backed me on that.

"We wanted a really, really young, energetic team to take the club forward."

In other games this weekend West Ham cross London to meet Arsenal, Stoke travel to Everton, Blackburn host Chelsea, Wolves are home to Manchester City and Manchester United welcome Tottenham.

Bolton and Liverpool clash on Sunday afternoon with West Brom going to Blackpool on Monday.

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