Aston Villa defender Curtis Davies acknowledges the team will have to overcome negative tactics from visitors to Villa Park if they are to realise Champions League ambitions.
Villa host Bolton this weekend with concerns Gary Megson’s side could adopt a similar game-plan to the one which earned Fulham a point in a 0-0 draw a fortnight ago.
Martin O’Neill’s team were able to throw off the shackles in a pulsating counter-attacking win at Everton last Sunday and have won five Premier League matches on their travels.
However, that record is superior to their form at Villa Park with 15 points on the road and just 13 picked up at home from three victories and four draws.
Villa’s goals tally is also more favourable on opposition territory where they have scored 15 times compared to 10 at home – and Davies feels away teams deliberately cramp their style.
“After the Arsenal game we’ve drawn 0-0 at home to Manchester United and you’d take that before the game, but when you do that and go and draw at home against Fulham then it does get frustrating,” said Davies.
“When we go away from home the onus is on the other team to attack us and we’re happy to see that because it opens a lot of spaces for Gabby Agbonlahor, Ashley Young and James Milner to run into and we get a few goals.
“I think it’s just because of how well we’ve done this season that teams aren’t coming here and thinking they’ll come and win.
“They’re coming here and setting their stall out.
“Since we were in the top four during the first part of the season teams have come and are happy to sit back and just take whatever chances they might get.”
Villa will check on the fitness of James Milner ahead of Saturday’s visit of Bolton after it emerged that he played against Everton despite suffering flu symptoms.
The former Newcastle winger is the latest to fall victim to illness which has also affected midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker and defender Nicky Shorey in recent weeks.
However, O’Neill fully expects Milner to be fit and raring to go against Megson’s team, saying: “James Milner played at Everton under a real illness.
“He has a virus – a flu bug that has hit a few people – and he did brilliantly to play, but he is pretty washed out at the moment,” said O’Neill. “We reckon that with a few days’ rest he will be okay.’’
Meanwhile, any hopes Villa’s youngsters had of going a stage further in the FA Youth Cup than last year’s march to the semi-final were dashed last night in a 3-2 third round defeat at home to Arsenal.
The young lions, including new first-team starlet Nathan Delfouneso, took the lead twice through striker James Collins, but were twice pegged back before the Gunners grabbed a late winner.