Thu, Dec 04, 2008 - Page 18 News List

O’Neill confident of defense holding to secure qualification

AFP , BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND

Martin O’Neill believes Aston Villa’s stingy defense will shut out Slovakian side MSK Zilina today and ease his team into the UEFA Cup knockout stages.

After wins over Ajax and Slavia Prague put Villa in control of Group F, O’Neill’s side are one win away from effectively securing qualification from a tough group.

Although O’Neill was frustrated by Villa’s goalless draw against Fulham on Saturday, he took heart from the way his defense recorded a third consecutive clean sheet.

O’Neill sees signs that the back four, marshaled by center backs Carlos Cuellar and Martin Laursen, can match the notoriously parsimonious defenses at Liverpool and Chelsea.

“Look at the top sides. Liverpool have conceded very few this season and so have Chelsea,” O’Neill said.

“Manchester United conceded very few when they won the title last season,” he said.

With Villa’s participation in the next round all but secure, O’Neill is likely to rest England striker Gabriel Agbonlahor against Zilina.

However, he will still demand a victory and Villa defender Luke Young is confident the team will put the disappointment of being held by Fulham behind them.

“We are not too down. It was definitely two points lost but we are moving on again and must make sure,” he said.

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