Downing set for Villa bow

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Stewart Downing could make his home debut for Aston Villa in the Barclays Premier League clash with Tottenham.

The England winger made his comeback after a seven-month lay-off with a broken foot as a substitute at Burnley last weekend and then played 75 minutes for the reserves in midweek.

Central defender James Collins will have a late fitness test on his groin injury.

The former West Ham player missed the game at Turf Moor and, if he is ruled out, Carlos Cuellar will again deputise alongside Richard Dunne.

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill has issued a warning to his players that Jermain Defoe must be stopped if they are to take anything from the game.

Defoe will arrive at Villa Park on cloud nine after his amazing five goal blast during Tottenham's 9-1 win against Wigan at White Hart Lane last weekend.

Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp labelled Defoe the best finisher in the Premier League after that match.

And O'Neill is not about to argue with that assumption as he holds England marksman Defoe in the highest regard.

O'Neill, whose fifth placed Villa trail Tottenham by a place and three points, said: "Defoe will have to be watched very carefully in the game as he can score goals.

"I wouldn't disagree with Harry Redknapp that he may well be as good a finisher as anybody in the Premiership.

"Defoe is a very fine player. But it is not just him we will have to be aware of. Tottenham have a number of good players like Peter Crouch, Aaron Lennon and Niko Kranjcar.

"Tottenham were absolutely brilliant at the weekend and in unstoppable form. I felt they were excellent.

"I happened to be at the game and they caused Wigan all sorts of problems scoring that number of goals.

"But saying that I don't think for one minute that anyone would have expected at half-time that Wigan would have conceded eight goals in the second half.

"It is an appetising game with the two teams in fourth and fifth place."

Tottenham skipper Ledley King is still out with a hamstring injury and will miss the game.

Luka Modric has trained with the youth team as he steps up his rehabilitation from a fractured fibula.

Goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini (wrists and pelvis) is a long-term absentee.

Spurs boss Redknapp insists he is not frightened to change a winning team against Villa despite almost racking up double figures against Wigan.

Spurs thrashed Wigan 9-1 on Sunday but skipper Robbie Keane was on the bench along with Jermaine Jenas, who had played for England against Brazil the weekend before.

"It's possible that I'd make one or two changes, it's a different game and winning at home is different to playing away, you've only got to look at results over history," Redknapp said.

"There will be no danger of complacency as it's a very tough game, you are never going to get an easy game there, so it's an evenly matched game between two teams trying to get into Europe.

"You don't have a lot of time to dwell. When I was driving home from the Wigan game I was already thinking about the Villa game. We have a very tough week with Villa, Manchester United in the Carling Cup and then Everton."

Redknapp feels Spurs, Villa and Manchester City will be among those looking to fill European places but could also have a crack at the reaching the top four of the Barclays Premier League.

"Man City will still be favourites, they've got a fantastic squad of players, but us and Villa are still trying to push into that area," he said.

"One or two feel they have a chance to push the top four and break into that group.

"We could go second with a win, that would be nice but it's where you finish at the end of the season - 25 points at this stage is a good total but we've got to keep building on that now."

One player who appears undroppable for Spurs is Defoe, who has 15 goals for club and country this season after his five strikes against Wigan.

"He's been sharp ever since he came back from injury earlier this year and I said before the game he can carry on from the training ground," Redknapp said. "If we can get one or two from him at Villa I'll be delighted."

Defoe will be up against a newly formed Villa defence - but one with a huge amount of experience.

"Martin O'Neill made some good signings," Redknapp said. "The three defenders - Richard Dunne, James Collins and Stephen Warnock - were terrific, no gambles, absolute certs to be Premier League successes, and so they look stronger this year with pace and counter-attacking abilities."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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Tottenham Hotspur
Robbie Keane
Stewart Downing
Niko Kranjcar
Aaron Lennon
Ledley King
Manchester City
League Cup
Premier League
Carlos Cuellar
Peter Crouch
Manchester United
Jermaine Jenas
Carlo Cudicini
Stephen Warnock
Jermain Defoe
Richard Dunne
Wigan Athletic
Luka Modric
James Collins
Aston Villa

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