Aston Villa captain Olof Mellberg has leapt to the defence of his Swedish compatriot, Sven-Goran Eriksson.

The England head coach has seen his stock fall to an all-time low, leading to the announcement this week that he will leave the post after the World Cup finals this summer.

He is still marginally more popular than George Galloway and Michael Barrymore but his flagrant disregard for his job has finally taken its toll.

A media sting operation has left the nation divided over his future. However, the Football Association decided to act and after countless steamy revelations over his personal life, allied to his surreptitious meeting with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, it was undoubtedly the straw that broke the camel's back.

With Eriksson in the final throes of his tenure, he is likely to be coveted for a number of high-profile positions

While he might find a position hard to come by in the British Isles, Eriksson is still revered abroad and nowhere more than in his home country of Sweden.

Mellberg has known Eriksson and his assistant, Tord Grip, for more than a decade and Villa's captain is convinced the media grilling he has received in England will not taint him in Scandinavia.

The 28-year-old skipper is firmly focused on negotiating a tricky FA Cup tie against Port Vale tomorrow but says Eriksson will be ultimately judged on what he has achieved as a manager.

"I haven't followed it (Sven's gaffe in Dubai) much over the last few weeks," Mellberg said."But he has been a popular manager in Sweden because of what he has done and achieved in Portugal, Italy and England as well.

"It is difficult for me to say what the is of the people of Sweden. Regarding the Swedish media, they don't have many stories with Sven, so most of what goes in their papers comes from over here.

"He did well in Sweden before he left for Portugal and that is how he will be judged. The World Cup is a big tournament for him in the summer and he will be judged on that in both England and Sweden."

Mellberg has made Eriksson's acquaintance, as they hail from the same region in Sweden.

However, it is Eriksson's right-hand man and confidant, Tord Grip, that Mell-berg is more familiar with and he cites the quiet man of the duo for helping launch his career.

He said: "I know Tord very well, as he was the manager of my first club in Sweden (Degerfors IF) when I was in the youth team.

"This was before he linked up with Sven and was a manager in his own right. I don't know Sven as well but I have spoken to him a few times as we are from virtually the same place in Sweden."

However, while Eriksson is planning his next managerial move, Mellberg will be forced to deal with more pressing matters.

A home time with League One outfit Port Vale should not present too many problems. Nevertheless, Villa have slipped up against lesser lights in cup competitions during David O'Leary's tenure. Burnley, Sheffield United and, most infamously of all, Doncaster have embarrassed Villa in recent years.

Mellberg and his teammates will be given a thorough briefing at Bodymoor Heath today on the Potteries outfit.

He said yesterday: "We don't know too much about Port Vale as yet, but we are going to have a long look at them tomorrow and see what they are about.

"It doesn't look as though we are going to get into Europe via the Premiership, so this is a good opportunity for us.

"We should be the favourites whoever we play at Villa Park, so we should just focus on our own game, even though we are going to have an in-depth look at them.

"We should look to win every game at home, regardless of who we play; but against Port Vale, that expectation and pressure is going to be even bigger and rightly so. We have to be able to handle that."

If Villa are to improve their recent lamentable cup record, it will have to be achieved without Eirik Bakke.

The on-loan Leeds United midfielder returned to Elland Road last week after it was made apparent to O'Leary that his wages would be too prohibitive for an extended stay.

There have been no new arrivals to supplement Villa's squad in the transfer window and indications are that that stance will not change.

Mellberg is a confirmed Bakke fan and believes he is a player who will be sorely missed.

"I was a little bit surprised we didn't keep him," he said. "I got to know him really well and he is a good friend of mine, so I know he wanted to stay." ..SUPL: