Martin O’Neill is looking for Aston Villa to reproduce the same fighting spirit they displayed earlier in the season when they take on Slavia Prague in the Uefa Cup.
The Villa manager has challenged his team to repeat the recovery which saw them bounce back from a heavy defeat at Chelsea in emphatic style during October.
Villa responded to the damaging loss at Stamford Bridge by reaping seven points from their next three Premier League games and overcoming Ajax in Europe.
O’Neill saw his side suffer a morale-sapping reverse at Newcastle on Monday, only their third league defeat of the season.
They now face a demanding double-header against Slavia Prague and Middlesbrough with O’Neill confident that the “real” Villa will stand up and be counted.
“If you had said to me that we would have 20 points on the board after 11 games, of course I would have taken it,” said O’Neill.
“That is especially after three games (Man City, Stoke and Liverpool) when we had four points on the board.
“It has been a good old surge and it has been great. But now there is no point in resting on it and thinking that is alright.
“It is a long season. What we were able to do after Chelsea was fight back and solidify ourselves again and go. Now we are looking to do the same again. That is the real sign of a team.”
O’Neill may have privately been pleased with Sir Alex Ferguson’s assessment that Villa were the likeliest team to break into the top four
However, he says the reality is that they still have much work to do.
“I think that Monday night’s overall game proved that we have got a distance to go,” said O’Neill.
“While that is something that every club outside of the top four should be thinking about, what is the point in this game if you think those teams are beyond you? Sometimes you have to get a bit of realism.
“We should have been able to turn those chances into goals at Newcastle.
“Had we scored first we would have won the game – but we didn’t. Not having won the game we should then have made sure we didn’t get beaten. So we have got things to learn.”
O’Neill is determined to remain upbeat and suggests Villa simply have to move on and learn the error of their ways.
“There is a tendency always to over-analyse after a defeat,” he said. “We had played very well in the first half. We had three great chances and failed to take any one of them.
“A victory would have been fantastic and given us an extra boost of confidence. But the confidence should be pretty high anyway. We just have to take it in our stride, we got beaten now we have to draw back and go again.”
Villa have travelled to the Czech Republic without four members of their first-team squad.
James Milner and Stiliyan Petrov are injured while Marlon Harewood and Isaiah Osbourne have remained at home for family reasons.
n?The Football Association will not pursue any investigation against Joey Barton after Aston Villa confirmed they had no complaint to make in relation to an incident involving forward Gabriel Agbonlahor and the Newcastle midfielder.
It had been alleged Barton made a racist comment towards Agbonlahor when the sides met at St James’ Park on Monday night, but the England Under-21 striker had already decided he did not want to take the matter further and now his club say they have no complaint to lodge either.