Aston Villa's hopes of signing either Stilian Petrov or Thomas Gravesen are diminishing by the day because of Celtic's desire to make progress in the Champions' League.
Not only have Celtic valued Petrov at nearly £7 million - beyond Villa's financial capabilities at this stage - but they have also expressed a serious interest in beating Villa in the race to sign Gravesen from Real Madrid.
Both are international central midfield players and, if Villa are going to make the necessary progress under Martin O'Neill, the new manager will probably have to make signing such a ball-winner a priority.
Just as significant is Celtic's lack of interest in signing Juan Pablo Angel, the Villa and Colombia international striker, who could be surplus to requirements once O'Neill makes the necessary changes at Villa Park. There were reports that Villa were going to offer Angel and cash in exchange for Petrov, but Celtic have dismissed these suggestions as "somebody putting two and two together and coming up with five".
O'Neill, who has been the Villa manager since August 4, will have no new signings in place in time to face Arsenal at Emirates Stadium tomorrow. He could be weakened by the possible loss, because of injuries, to Wilfred Bouma and Gary Cahill.
Bouma, the Holland international left-back, suffered a hamstring injury on the pre-season tour of north Europe while Cahill, the talented central defender, is suffering from a swollen knee.
Mark Delaney, the central defender, played for an hour of the Wales match against Bulgaria but might not be match-fit. Steven Davis, the midfield playmaker who suffered a thigh injury in pre-season, will undergo a fitness test.
O'Neill, the Celtic manager for five years until 2005 and who brought the best out of Petrov, has been turning his attention to the match against Arsenal after a week of talk about which of two consortia will take over the ownership of Villa.
The uncertainty is far from ideal for O'Neill but, in one sense, he cannot lose. Few outside the West Midlands are expecting anything other than an Arsenal victory and yet the Villa players will be focused like never before and keen to impress their new manager.
Arsenal, who won the corresponding fixture last season 5-0, could be in for a surprise. But, while O'Neill will give each member of his squad the chance to stake a claim for a regular first-team place, it would be astonishing if significant changes were not made, either in the days that remain of the August transfer window or, more likely, during the January transfer window.
With Kevin Phillips possibly moving to Sunderland and Villa's goalscoring problems obvious to everyone, a new striker is also essential. That might be more difficult than signing a central midfield player.
The future of Milan Baros, the Czech Republic international striker, is a concern to O'Neill. Baros seemed certain to leave this summer but might be persuaded by the new optimism that is streaming through Villa Park.
Gareth Barry might have left by now had O'Neill not arrived but Portsmouth are still keen to buy the utility player for about £4 million.
The reality for O'Neill, and Villa's long-suffering supporters, is that the team rebuilding will take time and improve-m ent will, initially, be unspectacular.
Managing growing expectations has been part of O'Neill's problem - season-ticket sales have increased markedly since he took over - but he has handled himself well.
"Saturday might be too rather early [for new players],
to be perfectly honest," O'Neill said. "But we have got to the end of August, by which time we will have played three games."
Villa play at home to Reading on August 23 and at home to Newcastle United on August 27. It seems certain that O'Neill will have made at least one purchase by the time of the Newcastle match.
For the Arsenal match, however, the team will be not too dissimilar to the one that ended the 2005-06 season so nervously.
But O'Neill has motivational skills that David O'Leary, his predecessor, lacked. Villa have not been this united as a club for years.