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Premier League

Yorke predicts a troubled, trophyless season for Villa

Aston Villa will struggle to finish in the top half of the Premier League this season according to former striker Dwight Yorke.

Yorke, who scored 98 goals in 287 appearances for Villa before signing for Manchester United, feels the team will be less competitive this year as the players they have signed are not of the quality of those that have been let go.

Having sold Stewart Downing, Ashley Young and Brad Friedel to Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham respectively, Villa have so far only added Wigan's Charles N'Zogbia and Manchester City's Shay Given to the squad that finished ninth last season.

Speaking exclusively to The Independent, Yorke said: "Whether Villa can go on and finish in the top half will be a real challenge for me. Europe is not a possibility. They have let their vital players leave the club and it is difficult to recover from that when you are a club of Villa's standing.

"When you look at the players they have let go, Ashley Young and Stewart Downing, these are key players to Villa, and the players they have brought in, no disrespect to them, you can't see them improving Villa too much. If they finish in the top half of the Premier League it will be a great achievement. I don't like what I'm seeing and I think it will be very disturbing to the fans."

Yorke also took a swipe at Manchester City, saying he believes Chelsea will be Manchester United's main rivals for the Premier League. He said: "Manchester City have spent a lot of money and will be huffing and puffing, but we've seen money spent before in the Premier League. I can't see past United and Chelsea. Those two are always at the top and that doesn't change."

Meanwhile, Friedel has paid tribute to his Villa replacement, Shay Given. The new Spurs keeper said: "Shay has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League for probably the past 10 years, if not a little bit longer.

"When you're looking at signing a first-team goalkeeper, in my opinion, there was no one better than Shay out there. He's still hungry to do well."