Key Villa players a doubt for Chelsea clash

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Martin O'Neill admits Aston Villa's hectic fixture list is taking its toll as he sweats on the fitness of a quartet of key players ahead of Saturday's clash at Chelsea.

Leading scorer Gabriel Agbonlahor is already sidelined with a foot injury which has ruled him out of the last two matches after he had previously been suffering with a groin strain. But now fellow striker Emile Heskey, midfielder James Milner and central defender Richard Dunne are all to have scans to determine the extent of their Achilles tendon injuries following Wednesday night's 1-1 draw with Sunderland.

O'Neill said: "Gabby is improving daily but I don't know if he will be ready for Saturday. He might be and we'll see where we are. Emile came off with an Achilles problem. James did well to play for as long as he did in the game. He was sore beforehand but, psychologically, I wanted him on the field."

He added: "He was prepared to play. He wasn't going to exacerbate things greatly other than playing through a bit of pain which he's done.

"I'm delighted with him but his Achilles is very sore.

"They're all going for scans, Richard Dunne also. It's down to the number of games we've played. I think overall we've been really lucky with injuries but the games are definitely taking their toll."

O'Neill believes the race for fourth spot is wide open, especially with Manchester City losing at home to Everton.

He said: "We were disappointed in the dressing room but the Man City result keeps us still there and it is going to be really tight.

"It is still alive, absolutely. Tottenham will be delighted at the two of us dropping points while getting through to the FA Cup semi-finals.

"But we all have tough fixtures, none tougher than us for Saturday, but there will be twists and turns, as I said a few weeks ago, like Manchester City getting beat by Everton. It's so tight."

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