Aston Villa hope the benefit of an extra two days’ recovery time will give their frustrated squad a double fitness boost ahead of next Monday’s match against Hull City.
Striker Gabriel Agbonlahor and midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker missed last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Bolton Wanderers with respective hamstring and knee problems.
However, manager Martin O’Neill is confident the duo will be fit for the Hull game which will take place more than 48 hours after it was originally scheduled because of television coverage.
“Nigel’s got a knee injury,” said O’Neill, whose team are stuck in a 12-game winless run.
“I don’t think it’s particularly serious, but he had a problem with it on Friday and it was best not to rush it through when we’ve got other people.
“Gabby was the same. He trained all week and wasn’t too bad but still felt a wee bit of a twinge with the hamstring so we thought we’d best leave it.
“With the extra couple of days in mind, I’m hoping he will be back and I think with Nigel’s treatment he’s feeling a bit better as well,” he added.
O’Neill will also check on the fitness of Luke Young this week after the right-back missed the trip to the Reebok Stadium with a persistent foot injury.
Meanwhile, O’Neill believes the presence of three English sides in this week’s Champions League semi-finals is a sign of the daunting task Villa face in disrupting the monopoly of the Premier League’s ‘Big Four’
The Villa manager reckons the nation’s top clubs’ recent success in Europe is a ringing endorsement of the quality of football on these shores. Chelsea face Spanish giants Barcelona tonight, while Arsenal and Manchester United meet tomorrow, guaranteeing an English finalist for the third year in a row.
“We had four English teams in the quarter-finals of the Champions League and three now in the semi-finals,” said O’Neill, who finally conceded defeat in Villa’s hopes of Champions League qualification at the weekend.
“If you are talking about that competition being the Holy Grail and these teams are in there and getting knocked out when they play each other, I think it is a reasonable sign that the Premier League is in really good condition.
“It is very strong and very exciting as well in my opinion. As a member of it, I am very happy to stand up for it,” he said.
“That’s not to say that Barcelona are not a fantastic side but if you look at it another way, Liverpool ripped another Spanish giant Real Madrid apart over two games. You then realise our league is very strong.
“Those teams in the semi-finals deserve to be there because they are so, so strong. We play at a quick tempo – hard to get your breath at times – but it is very exciting.
“Just look at some of the games in recent months, like the Arsenal 4-4 with Liverpool and some of the games we’ve been involved in, like the ones against Everton home and away.
Villa are currently trying to strike a fine balance between not letting this season fizzle out completely and running the rule over transfer targets for next term.
“We are covering a lot of games at this moment in time both here and abroad,” added O’Neill.
“We are getting reports about players who have a lot of potential, but at the same time we are not taking our eye off the end of this season.”