Date: 4th December 2008 at 2:50pm
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As you would expect, there is loads of talk ahead of the UEFA Cup game tonight v MSK Zilina (live on Channel 5 and even more live at Villa Park!)

Martin O’Neill is quoted in the Express and Star saying ‘We’ve done the hard work – now let’s win the group’. A draw will be enough to guarantee our qualification into the last 32 but MON has higher aims using his favourite word he said: ‘Finishing in the top two would be terrific,.’ And knows that 10 points would be enough to do just that.

Does it matter where we finish as long as we qualify? Yup! The rules of the competition means those finishing 1st and runners up have the advantage of playing the second leg of the knock out stages at home. Also the winners play against third-placed opponents from another group, the runners-up face the teams dropping out of the Champions League.

Looks like Nicky Shorey could miss out as he has caught the same flu bug that kept Nigel Hokey-Cokey out of the Fulham game. Martin O’Neill said they’d check on him today and take it from there.

The Villa boss also says that the fringe players, who he’ll use tonight, have to take the opportunity to impress him. He told AVTV: ‘I think some of the players have been a little unlucky.
I genuinely didn’t realise up until recently that we had only used 17 players in the Premier League. People then deduce that I am a manager who doesn’t rotate. Those same people also deduce that the players who aren’t in the starting line-up aren’t rated. But I have never looked at it like that. I think those who haven’t played so often are definitely capable of doing so. Moustapha Salifou, for example, came in against Prague and was absolutely brilliant for us. So he is very unlucky not to in the starting line-up.’

Adding, ‘I thought Craig Gardner was also fantastic for us on the night and Zat Knight did really well too. I have complete confidence in the players. I am genuinely hoping all my players want to play – and play every week. But that’s not always possible.’

The Villa have a new site with clips of European nights. www.anighttoremember.tv

In the Birmingham Post O’Neill warns that Villa cannot take Zilina lightly tonight. ‘I’ve watched DVDs of their matches. I’ve watched the two UEFA Cup games they’ve played and the league game against Slovan Bratislava.’ Adding, ‘Zilina have got a bit of talent and good players, as befits a club side from that part of the world. They’ve got one or two players that can manoeuvre it. They’ve nothing to lose, they’re already out, so they’ll maybe come and play more freely, which may be more dangerous for us.’

Former Villa boss Doctor Joe Venglos has also been speaking! He told AVTV ‘It is excellent to back at Villa Park – a real privilege. I respect Villa very much and I have great memories of being manager here. Villa are a historic club. They are one of the founder members of both the Football League and the Premier League so they are a big name in the game. They are certainly a big name in Slovakia but saying that, they are a big name all over Europe. In fact, they are big all over the world. I wish Villa all the best. They are doing very well in the top-flight. In Martin O’Neill, they have a great manager and he has top players in the squad.’

He also says he still looks out for our results adding, ‘Fans should be proud of the club and how it is moving forward.’