Villa not ready for Europe yet, admits O'Neill

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The Independent Football

Martin O'Neill knows that given the size of his squad, Aston Villa could not cope with the demands of European football.

Villa went into the weekend programme level on points with fourth-placed Liverpool – their opponents at Anfield tonight – and Everton. But the Irishman is aware he has been fortunate to sustain only one major injury during the first half of the campaign in striker John Carew who was out with a knee problem for seven weeks.

O'Neill, who has the smallest squad in the Premier League, said: "We still have time to adjust our squad in time to compete in Europe – but we couldn't cope with that now. We have 22 players to choose from, three of which are goalkeepers, while Steve O'Halloran is out on loan. Our luck has been good in terms of serious injuries. If we had the number of injuries that West Ham have had this season we couldn't cope with that."

Villa could extend their unbeaten league run to six games tonight but captain Gareth Barry is a doubt after bruising his pelvis in training. Craig Gardner is in line to deputise.

On-loan Liverpool goalkeeper Scott Carson is ineligible and Stuart Taylor will make only his third league appearance of the season. Defender Olof Mellberg is available.

Daniel Agger is Liverpool's only certain absentee (metatarsal). Steve Finnan and Javier Mascherano may return after missing the midweek FA Cup tie and Martin Skrtel could get a first call-up.