Aston Villa Vs Stoke City, Sat 23 Apr 2011

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Aston Villa assistant manager Gary McAllister believes finishing eighth in the Premier League is a realistic target.

McAllister - in charge while boss Gerard Houllier recovers in hospital after suffering chest pains - said he was not looking at the run-in as a potential relegation scrap.

Instead he is confident that 10th-placed Villa can finish the season on a high and give a boost to Houllier - starting with the home clash with Stoke.

McAllister said: "There are 15 points to play for, places in the Premier League up for grabs. We want to finish as high as we can.

"We've got to try and get a nice boost for the manager and keep this run going."

Tony Pulis' side will arrive at Villa Park also looking over their shoulder at the relegation fight.

But McAllister insisted Villa were only looking upwards.

He said: "We are not necessarily looking at it from the perspective of looking to get points for safety.

"We are looking to get as many points as we can. Whether we can get to eighth position I don't know, but that is a realistic target."


McAllister is confident he has sufficient back-up support should he remain at the helm following the Stoke match.

"We've only looked at this game. We've got plenty of resources here," he said.

"I've got Gordon Cowans (first team coach) and Rafa Gonzalez (goalkeeping coach).

"I can lean on Kevin MacDonald (reserve team coach) who has stepped into this position before as well Tony McAndrew (youth team coach). There are plenty of people for me to lean on."

Villa will be at full strength for the match with midfielder Fabian Delph having recovered from a groin injury.

Meanwhile, Stoke boss Tony Pulis has described Villa as "one of the great under-achievers this year" and claimed they are still coming to terms with the departure of Martin O'Neill.

O'Neill quit the Villa Park hot-seat on the eve of the season and neither caretaker manager McDonald nor the Northern Irishman's permanent successor Houllier have managed to achieve consistently good results with a highly-talented squad.

Villa do, at least, appear safe from relegation following last weekend's victory at West Ham but Pulis believes they should have done better.

He said: "They are one of the great under-achievers this year.

"Martin O'Neill is one of the top managers in this country and for someone to take over from Martin was always going to be difficult. They are big shoes to fill.

"And with Gerard Houllier being out of the game for a while it was always going to be a slow transition and it has taken them a bit of time to get going.

"I am sure they will be better next year, they are a great football club.

"There are clubs that are at a level above us at the moment and Villa are one of them but we will try to go there and win."

Pulis can choose from a full-strength squad for the short trip down the M6 and he admitted confidence was high.

"You can't knock them down with a bus at the moment. Everyone's flying," he said.

His only real selection poser comes in goal with Asmir Begovic pushing to replace Thomas Sorensen, who has played predominantly in the cup competitions this season.

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