Alex McLeish has instructed his Aston Villa players to adopt a “no fear” approach to their Chelsea challenge at Stamford Bridge on New Year’s Eve.
Villa have already lost to five of the Premier League’s ‘big six’ this season with defeats to Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.
However, McLeish is confident the claret and blues can buck that trend against Andre Villas Boas’ title challengers on Saturday afternoon.
Villa’s manager has taken positives out of the last two festive fixtures against Arsenal and Stoke, even though they yielded a solitary point from a loss and a draw.
And McLeish has warned his players not to be intimidated against the Stamford Bridge superstars.
“We go there with confidence and we have to believe it’s a great challenge and not a threat,” said McLeish.
“Because of the upbringing I’ve had, the mentality I’ve had is that my teams could always compete despite any disparity we’ve had. Even when there’s been a disparity in spending and technical excellence.
“We can’t go there and fear. I am very pleased with the way we have played in the last two games.”
Villa must try to summon up the spirit of a year ago when they produced an impressive performance at Chelsea.
Under the management of Gerard Houllier, they took the lead, only to be pegged back late on and grab a last gasp equaliser to clinch a 3-3 draw.
Ciaran Clark, the player who scored the late leveller, has fond memories of that match and having forced his way back into the first XI in the past week is daring to dream of a repeat – or even a Villa victory.
“That was a good day but, saying that, we should have won the game,” recalled Clark.
“I know we were only minutes away from winning and I don’t know how we even managed to pull it back to a draw.
“It was brilliant, but I’m just hoping we can come away with three points this year.
“We definitely go there with belief. Our side’s good enough to beat anyone in this league. All the lads know that. We can do it.
“We’ve just got to stick together and hopefully we can go down there and keep a good defensive shape, like we did at Stoke, and then we can go forward and hopefully create chances.
“It would be great to end 2011 with a win, that’s what we’re looking to do and hopefully we’ll come away with the three points.
I just want to keep playing, keep working hard and hopefully I can keep getting picked and being involved with the squad.”