Aston Villa Vs Tottenham Hotspur, Sun 26 Dec 2010

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 Aston Villa: Friedel; Warnock, Cuellar, Collins, Lichaj; Downing, Albrighton, Delph, Hogg; Agbonlahor, Heskey.
Substitutes: Guzan, Clark, Pires, Petrov, Reo-Coker, Bannan, Delfouneso.

Spurs: Gomes; Hutton, Kaboul, Dawson, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Palacios, Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart, Defoe.
Substitutes: Cudicini, Bassong, Corluka, Jenas, Kranjcar, Pavlyuchenko, Crouch.

Villa boss keeps focus on fixtures

Gerard Houllier is not letting the prospect of strengthening his squad distract him as he prepares his Aston Villa squad for a daunting festive schedule.

The midlands club welcome Champions League upstarts Tottenham to Villa Park on Boxing Day before trips to high-flying Manchester City and Chelsea round off the Christmas fixtures.

With games against in-form Sunderland and local rivals Birmingham on the horizon, as well as an FA Cup clash at Sheffield United, speculation is rife as to how Houllier, who joined the club after the summer transfer window had closed, will choose to alter his squad.

However, the Frenchman said: "At the moment I'm focused on the games. If you want to talk about Tottenham, I'm quite happy to do it.

"If you want to talk about even the game after, I'm quite happy to do it because two days later we play Manchester city at their place so I think the most important thing is to get points. We have 20 points which is not enough.

"Mind you, you could say easily for those who've followed our games we could have five or six points more. Then we'd be probably in seventh or eighth position.

"Unfortunately we've dropped points, sometimes in a silly way, and now we've got to refocus on the 21 games that are left to play."

The major positive for Houllier as he heads into such a hectic period is that his injuries problems are quickly receding.

The postponement of last weekend's game at Wigan gave Ashley and Luke Young time to recover from injuries, while long-term casualties Stiliyan Petrov and Fabian Delph are both back in full training.

Both Delph and Petrov have an outside chance of being on the bench against Spurs.

One player who will not be involved, though, is Steve Sidwell, who is on the brink of a move to West Ham.

Rafael van der Vaart has warned his Tottenham team-mates that they risk losing ground in their push for a top-four finish unless they start to improve their record against the league's weaker teams.

Spurs head into the festive period in fifth position on the back of an eight-match unbeaten run in all competitions, which stretches back to the start of November.

The Londoners' outlook could have been much brighter had they not been defeated by the likes of West Ham and Wigan, both of whom sit inside the relegation zone.

Van der Vaart has been encouraged by Spurs' performances in the draws against big teams like Manchester City and Chelsea and the win over bitter rivals Arsenal, but insists the team must beat the division's poorer teams in order to ensure they qualify for next year's Champions League.

Looking ahead to Spurs' games against Aston Villa, Newcastle, Fulham and Everton over the festive period, the Dutchman said: "We have to win our games and have confidence that we will be in the top four.

"It will be hard work. There are a lot of good teams but we play well against the big teams and some of the small clubs we have our problems."

Harry Redknapp's assistant Kevin Bond is also aware of the damage that could be done by a dip in form over the next two weeks and has challenged the team to extend their unbeaten run.

"If we could go through that Christmas and New Year period unbeaten that would be great," said Bond. "That would keep us there or thereabouts and they are all games you would hope to get something from.

"With so many games coming over a short space of time, if you don't get some decent results then you can take yourself out of the running and we can't afford to do that so we need to keep at it."

Van der Vaart will be available at Villa Park having recovered from the hamstring injury which has sidelined him for the past three weeks.

Fellow midfielder Jermaine Jenas (calf) and defender Younes Kaboul (hip) will also be fit. Centre-half William Gallas will undergo a fitness test to see if he has fully recovered from the hamstring injury he picked up a fortnight ago.

Ledley King (groin) has trained this week but is not fit enough to play.

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

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