Villa still on track, says Friedel

Brad Friedel is adamant Aston Villa’s season is not on the brink of unravelling. A tough seven days last week saw Martin O’Neill’s side go out of the FA Cup at Everton as well as lose their unbeaten 13-game run in the Premier League at home to Chelsea.

Sandwiched in between, Villa could only manage a 1-1 home draw in the first leg of their last 32 Uefa Cup match at home to a CSKA Moscow side currently in pre-season.

With O’Neill threatening to field a weakened side for the second leg on Thursday as he focuses on chasing a Champions League place for next season, there is every danger Villa’s campaign could come off the rails. But veteran goalkeeper Friedel, likely to be one of those rested for the game at the Luzhniki Stadium, is confident that will not happen.

“If you look at the game with Everton we had every chance to score the equaliser just before half-time, and then after it we were the better team,” said Friedel. “They then scored the killer third goal, so it wasn’t as if we were played off the park.

“Against Moscow we were in the ascendancy and could have come out comfortable winners. And then against Chelsea, some say could have, some say should have, some say maybe not, but we could have got a result. It’s not as if we are losing form. We are just going to have to dust ourselves off and go again. You go back to the training ground, work really hard and try to put it right in the next game. We’ve an excellent squad, with some tremendous players in the dressing room from top to bottom.”

Whatever side O’Neill fields on Thursday, they will all have to contend with the plastic pitch at the Luzhniki Stadium. It was at that ground in October 2007 that England were beaten 2-1 by Russia, a result which played a major part in then manager Steve McClaren’s side failing to reach Euro 2008. Playing down the significance of the surface, Friedel added: “It is different because you have to adjust to the pace and bounce of the ball. But it’s not something that’s so foreign you can’t cope with it. Plastic pitches nowadays are not as brutal as you might think, and as a goalkeeper you can get away with not wearing leggings as they have become that soft. I’ve one at my academy, and I tried them all out before I put one down.”

Villa captain Gareth Barry, 28 yesterday, is aware the artificial surface can pose problems, but insists no blame should be attached to it if they fail to make it through to the last 16. The midfielder said: “It is quite a difficult surface because you’re just not used to playing on it. You’re playing in moulded boots, rather than your studs which the majority of players wear. It is different, but we’ll have a day’s training beforehand and we’ll get used to it.The ball does bounce differently, but not enough to be used as an excuse.

“It rolls pretty straight. It doesn’t move and you get used to it. You’ve got to try and be experienced and not worry about it at all. You’ve just got to play your normal game.”

Villa left-back Wilfred Bouma is set to make his competitive comeback after six months out of action with a dislocated ankle. The Netherlands international has been pencilled in to play in Villa’s next reserve game with Chelsea on 2 March.

Bouma had initially been lined up to play last Monday against Arsenal’s second string but was withdrawn after his leg felt sore on the morning of the game. “Bouma should play in the next reserve game,” O’Neill said. “He should have played last week but felt a bit sore on the day of the game. He will not travel to Moscow for the Uefa Cup game with CSKA but he will do some work here.”

Carlos Cuellar and Nigel Reo-Coker will also not be part of the squad to face the Russians after recent hamstring problems. Cuellar will not be risked on the plastic pitch while Reo-Coker recently aggravated the problem in training.

Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect