The proposed takeover of Aston Villa could happen within the next 48 hours but both the club and rival bidders last night appeared in the dark over the suggestion that American football franchise owner Randy Lerner is poised to become the new owner.

Villa declined to comment over reports that chairman Doug Ellis is finally ready to sell and, although there have also been two other rival factions involved, Solihull businessman Michael Neville remains under the impression that his consortium's £64million bid 19 days ago is still the only one actually on the table.

"For a variety of reasons, I'm not allowed to comment," said Neville. "As far as I'm concerned, everything is still ongoing but nothing comes as any surprise to me any more."

While Villa's off-field future finally looks set to be sorted, with just five days before the start of the Premiership campaign, new manager Martin O'Neill is ready to address key on-field issues.

He was scheduled to have a weekend meeting with Milan Baros, whose future at the club still seems uncertain after missing the whole of pre-season with the foot injury picked up at the World Cup.

After taking time to get to know his new charges during last week's pre-season tour to Germany and Holland, O'Neill intends sitting down with various players over the next few days.

Most notable among them is Gareth Barry, linked with a £4.5 million move to Portsmouth and Olof Mellberg, who has denied that he was ever tempted by the chance of a move to Spanish club Levante.

As for the notion that he might suddenly be about to massively increase his fighting fund, O'Neill remains linked with three top level midfield players - Real Madrid's ormer Everton man Thomas Gravesen, an international team-mate of Thomas Sorensen and Martin Laursen, Fulham star Steed Malbranque, whose time appears up at Craven Cottage and, perhaps the costliest option, Celtic's Stilian Petrov.