Petrov sure Villa will find old level again after 'strange' lapse in form

Stiliyan Petrov believes Aston Villa have "moved to the next level" in his time at the club despite their current relegation battle.

Petrov, the Villa captain, will celebrate five years there this summer after becoming former manager Martin O'Neill's first signing from Celtic in 2006. The Bulgaria midfielder, who recently clocked up 100 caps for his country and has helped Villa to three successive top-six finishes in the Premier League and a League Cup final appearance, is confident the good times will soon return to Villa Park.

"We haven't won anything since I came here but I believe we have moved the club to the next level," the 31-year-old said yesterday. "I also believe we can get back to being a top team. We're not in the best of positions right now so we need to get out of trouble and go again next season. We have some very good players but we haven't lived up to expectations this season so we are looking to put that right."

Villa have picked up four points from their last two games to ease their fears of relegation for the first time in 24 years. Petrov said: "We need everyone pulling in the same direction because we are in a strange situation. But I believe we will pull out of it.

"The games are counting down and we are still not in a very comfortable position. That's something we need to achieve soon so we are not looking over our shoulders."

The Villa manager, Gérard Houllier, brought Petrov back into the starting XI for Sunday's 1-0 win over Newcastle after he had been rested against Everton to allow him to recover from his international exertions. Houllier said: "When you are in the position we are in, you need experience. I told him in the middle of last week that he would be involved against Newcastle. He trained hard and looked fitter. His experience allied to his skill brought a lot to us in that game."



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