Curtis Davies has warned Aston Villa that they could be pipped for a top-six place, let alone a Champions League spot, if they do not rapidly return to winning ways.
The central defender has offered the cautionary message to Martin O’Neill’s men ahead of Saturday's Premier League match at Gary Megson’s Bolton Wanderers.
Fifth-placed Villa have failed to win any of their last 11 matches, including eight in the league, and are eight points behind Arsenal and just one above Everton.
Davies is concerned that if the slump continues Villa could even be in danger of being reeled in by their rivals and finishing lower than last season’s sixth spot.
However, he insists the team’s performance levels in the defeat at Manchester United and home draws with Everton and West Ham United have raised morale.
“Going into games, we’ve still been confident we can get a positive result,” said Davies.
“It’s about picking yourself up for the next game because, if you keep your head down, we might as well pack our bags and go home now.
“We’re still fighting for that fourth place.
“But, if we’re not careful, we might be pipped for fifth place and then we might be pipped for sixth place.
“We need to keep going, stay positive and get as many points as we can before the end of the season.”
As well as improving on last year’s finish, Villa are also keen to sign off this season in style to lift spirits ahead of the 2009-10 campaign. Davies believes a flurry of victories in the next five matches would be the catalyst to the claret and blues beginning next term rich in confidence.
“I think it is important to end the season on a high,” said Davies.
“When you are in the summer, you don’t want to be going on holiday on a negative note with negative thoughts.
“You want to be ending the season positively so come pre-season we are ready to go again.
“We have got some important games in pre-season in the Peace Cup, some big games to test ourselves against some good teams.
“If we can get a good pre-season under our belt, I think that will be the catalyst for us to start us on fire when the new Premier League season gets under way. But before then we need to finish this season well.”
Davies’ defensive colleague Luke Young has echoed his team-mate’s sentiments by challenging Villa to win three of their last five games.
“We owe it to ourselves,” said Young. “To come this far and to not pick up as many points as we can before the end of the season would be criminal. We’ve got five games to go and if we can win at least three of those I’m sure it would be a decent end to the season.”
Gabriel Agbonlahor is expected to return to the squad after resuming training. The England striker, joint top scorer on 13 goals with John Carew, missed last weekend’s draw with West Ham because of a hamstring problem.
“Gabby is improving,” said O’Neill. “He did a bit of light stuff in the early part of this week and we will now see how he is over the next couple of days, but he is making progress.”