Gabriel Agbonlahor believes Aston Villa's early European exit could prove "a blessing in disguise" and allow Martin O'Neill's side to push for a Champions League place.
The England striker was as disappointed as his team-mates when Villa failed to reach the group stages of the Europa League after losing to Rapid Vienna on the away goals rule. But Agbonlahor expects Villa will reap the benefits of a pared-down schedule as they look to challenge for a top-four place in the Barclays Premier League.
"I think the top four is a realistic aim. It is going to be hard. A lot of teams are in with a shout of making it. There is no reason with the current squad why we can't be involved," said Agbonlahor.
"It is not good to go out of Europe but, if we had been in there, we would have played Thursday-Sunday and it may have been a different result against Portsmouth.
"Then, with the Carling Cup coming up this Wednesday as well, it would have been a heavy fixture list.
"It (going out of Europe) means more rest for the players and it is showing at the moment.
"Of course, we wanted to do as well as possible in Europe - but it might be a blessing in disguise (to have gone out) in terms of the league."
Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.