Martin O'Neill is adamant his Aston Villa side should not be written off as he now plots what would be a UEFA Cup upset.

O'Neill has sparked a storm by leaving eight first-team players at home for Thursday's return leg of Villa's last-32 clash with CSKA Moscow at the Luzhniki Stadium.

O'Neill said: "People are talking as if we're already out, but who is to say the players in the side won't be able to turn this around?"

Following last Wednesday's 1-1 first-leg draw, the Russians would ordinarily hold a slender advantage with the game on home soil of their plastic pitch, and in temperatures due to plummet to minus 10.

But with Gareth Barry, Brad Friedel, Emile Heskey, James Milner, Ashley Young, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Carlos Cuellar and Stiliyan Petrov all absent, CSKA are now overwhelming favourites.

He added :"We've still players with plenty of Premier League experience.

"We know we're going to have to score a goal, and more than likely we're going to have to win the game.

"But we have a real fighting chance of doing that, and that would be fantastic for us."

O'Neill feels the criticism that has come in the wake of a decision he describes as "one of the hardest during my time at the club" has been difficult to come to terms with.

"It seems as if it (resting players) is sacrilegious, yet this is the first time we've done it and it seems to be lasting forever."

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