O'Neill hopes Villa can keep place in sun after Dubai trip
Manager relies on break to revitalise team's flagging challenge on league run-in
Thursday 12 March 2009
Martin O'Neill believes Aston Villa's players will reap the benefits of their sunshine break as they prepare for the final push for a Champions League spot. Villa have returned from a five-day trip to Dubai to start the countdown in earnest to Sunday's home Premier League meeting with Tottenham.
They have gone six games without a win in all competitions amid fears of running out of steam after playing competitive football since July via the Intertoto Cup. But Villa still hold a three-point lead over Arsenal and O'Neill is confident the trip abroad will have recharged their batteries.
The former Celtic manager said: "When the team are together for more than an overnight stay for a game, I think it is almost inevitable that the players bond and get on better.
"They are living together for a few days and I really think that experience helps the entire team. I felt it was important for us because we wanted to get prepared for this very tough run-in, mentally and physically. We have done some training and enjoyed some sun and the players now feel refreshed. It was vital to regroup, get ourselves together again and now we want to go out and win some games."
With only the Premier League left to concentrate on, Villa should be able to cope with their schedule during the final two and a half months of the campaign. O'Neill's main concern is that his players do not pick up any more injuries when they are away on international duty at the end of the month for nearly two weeks.
He said: "We are in the position, other than the international break, where we are in charge of the training and the rest and stepping up and down of the players in terms of what they do in training. That fortnight where they are away is something I am not in control of.
"You just hope and pray that the players come back, but for the rest of the time we know what we need to do between now and the end of the season."
However, the Villa captain, Martin Laursen, has suffered a delay in his attempt to return to action after his knee problem. Laursen had hoped to be back in contention for the game at Manchester United on 5 April but suffered a reaction during training.
O'Neill added: "Martin has had a bit of a setback. He was doing fine and then his knee got a bit sore and puffed up a little bit after training. Hopefully, it will only be a three or four-day setback. But any setback at this stage would be a genuine one simply because of Martin's importance to the team. Maybe his enthusiasm was too strong, he was possibly doing too much, too soon. But we will see. He may even have been ahead of schedule at one stage, so we just hope it's a minor setback at the moment."
The midfielder Steve Sidwell and defender Wilfred Bouma are making good progress after hamstring and ankle problems respectively.
O'Neill said: "Steve [Sidwell] was injured before he went out to Dubai but he is responding. He is not too far away. Wilfred [Bouma] has just had the one reserve game but he has done plenty of training now, which is very encouraging. I am not saying he is ready immediately because he has been out for a long time, but it is great to see him back."
Latest in Sport
Phil Neville and his fellow Match of the Day pundits given warning by the BBC after 'smash them' comment
Manchester United transfer news and rumours: David De Gea could leave for FREE; £38m for Marquinhos; £37m bid for Mats Hummels;
Transfer news LIVE: Manchester United to make £37m Mats Hummels bid; Inter plan Yaya Toure move; Shola Ameobi joins Crystal Palace
Liverpool transfer news and rumours: Mario Balotelli's agent speaks as Brendan Rodgers swoops for German duo
Andy Murray vs Tomas Berdych - LIVE! Australian Open semi-final latest as Murray wins after losing first set
- 3 Russian girl takes her own life after parents find pornography on her computer
- 4 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures