Aston Villa Vs Blackburn Rovers, Sat 26 Feb 2011

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Gerard Houllier admits Aston Villa need to demonstrate the winning formula to banish any lingering fears of relegation.

Villa have been beaten only once in eight games in all competitions and have improved significantly in terms of their performance levels since the new year.

There has also been a feelgood factor after the arrival of Darren Bent and Jean Makoun during the January transfer window.

But Villa are still just three points above the bottom three in the Barclays Premier League.

Manager Houllier is aware of the significance of the home game with Blackburn and concedes he will not be concerned if Villa "win ugly".

He is hoping his players will be refreshed after a fortnight's break from action as they gear up for the final third of the campaign.

Houllier said: "This is a vital game for us. A huge game. We definitely need a win.

"We haven't been playing for 15 days and we are playing a team that will be with us in the relegation battle to the end so a win at home is very important.

"The players have got the belief to get out of trouble. They have improved a lot.

"Since the turn of the year, the team in terms of performances and results have done much better.

"They keep working hard and progressing - but what matters now is wins, whether we play ugly or we play well. We need to win the games."

Houllier added: "The league is so tight that, if you do win a game, you've got 33 points and you are probably in the top half.

"The way it is, it is very tight for everyone and we have got to live with that.

"If you think about it, West Brom were in the European positions at one stage.

"Apart from the big guns, you have a massive group of teams together and, on their day, every team can beat every team. Wolves beat Manchester United, for example."

Villa midfielder Makoun starts a three-match ban for his straight red card against Blackpool but defender Nathan Baker is available after a three- match suspension.

Defenders Carlos Cuellar and James Collins are sidelined through hamstring and calf injuries respectively.


Blackburn boss Steve Kean hailed the attitude of Ryan Nelsen after the defender continued to train despite not knowing whether his family and friends were safe following the devastating earthquake that hit his home city of Christchurch this week.

The 33-year-old first learned about the quake around 2am on Tuesday when he began to receive text messages from friends, and events took a very personal turn for the 33-year-old as his sister Stephanie went into labour before giving birth to baby George.

The New Zealand captain did not ask for any time off and will fill his regular spot in central defence.

Kean said: "I asked Ryan if he wanted to have some time off and get back home but, typical Ryan, he wanted to do his session. It gave him a different focus for a couple of hours and that's what he wanted. Thankfully everything's okay and his sister's well.

"If you take the weekend off and you go away then I think the whole thing builds up on top of your shoulders. If he can train and play and then go back home and support his family I think that's as good a way as there can be to really deal with it."

Gael Givet (groin) is fit but Junior Hoilett (hamstring) is doubtful and Phil Jones (knee) definitely still out while January signings Mauro Formica and Ruben Rochina are not yet match fit.

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Blackburn Rovers
Premier League
Aston Villa

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