On the face of it, Aston Villa's 3-1 drubbing at home to Everton in the Premiership last Saturday was hardly ideal preparation for the visit of Middlesbrough this weekend.
Villa manager David O'Leary went as far as to describe his side's inept performance against Everton as the worst home display of his reign at the club and said it "was absolutely shocking".
The home contingent among the 40,000-strong crowd at Villa Park would doubtlessly agree, but at least they can take some comfort from the fact that when O'Leary has pilloried his team in public in the past this season, they have always responded positively in their following match.
Take Villa's embarrassing 3-1 defeat in the Carling Cup last October at the hands of Championship side Burnley.
O'Leary described it at the time as "embarrassing" and lambasted his players for their lack of passion and pride.
The response from the Villa players was to earn a draw and three wins from their next four league games.
And when the Villa players erred from their normal performance levels and succumbed to a demoralising 3-1 at Sheffield United in a televised FA Cup match in January, O'Leary was again critical of his players.
But once more the players responded positively to their manager's harsh words and bounced back with a 3-0 victory over Norwich City at home the next week.
Consequently, Villa's sorry defeat to Everton may yet have some positive repercussions.
Villa ended last season extremely well to finish sixth in the top-flight and they must repeat the feat if they are to qualify for the Uefa Cup this term.
With ten games remaining, sixth-placed Middlesbrough's visit to Villa Park this Saturday represents the idea opportunity for O'Leary's men to close the seven-point gap on Boro, who occupy the last European spot.
And Villa's players will also be anxious to win so they go into their next game at arch rivals Birmingham City on March 20 in reasonable form.
Villa have striker Darius Vassell, who broke his ankle last October, pushing for a recall on Saturday after he came off the bench for the last 30 minutes against Everton.
Steve McClaren is expected to include ex-Villa midfielder George Boateng in his squad.
Boateng, who left Villa for Teesside for £5 million in August 2002, has been out injured since December.
But the Dutchman returned to training yesterday and is hoping to be fit for Saturday's match.
McClaren said: "It will be great to have George back, especially as he's such a bubbly character. We need him on the pitch, and I know that he is keen to play at Villa."
Middlesbrough goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer is injured and will definitely miss their trip to Villa after tweaking a medial knee ligament in training last Saturday.
Carlo Nash, who made his home Premiership debut in Boro's 2-2 draw against Charlton last Sunday, will remain in goal.
* Villa Fans Combined will be organising a "Show Doug The Red Card" protest at the Middlesbrough match.
VFC will be handing out 20,000 red cards prior to the game for supporters to hold up to vent their frustrations at chairman Doug Ellis.
The fans' group want supporters to demonstrate they have had enough of what VFC call the "mediocrity, underachievement and lack of backing given to the managers of the club over the past 22 years."