Aston Villa Vs Wolverhampton Wanderers, Sat 19 Mar 2011

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Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier insists team morale has not been affected by Richard Dunne and James Collins' recent bust-up with coaching staff.

The centre-half duo are understood to have been fined two weeks' wages in the wake of their actions during a team bonding session at a health spa in Leicestershire last week.

Yet Houllier is adamant the two-day exercise was an overall success and that Villa are in the right frame of mind as they prepare for the vital home clash with Wolves.

Houllier said: "I don't think team morale has been affected.

"As far as I am concerned, the rest of the team trained well and is ready and prepared for the Wolves game.

"We need to keep that [the incident] to one side and prepare for the Wolves game and the rest of the season. The rest of the team enjoyed the two days and it was a good exercise in terms of commitment, energy, enjoyment.

"It is an important game for us. We are at home, we've got our fans, it's a derby and players know what a derby represents for the fans.

"The nine games we have got left will be played with the same quality in terms of commitment and will to win."

Houllier believes there will be more pressure on Wolves than Villa going into the derby, with Mick McCarthy's men second-bottom of the Barclays Premier League.

He said: "Wolves are a good team, I like Mick McCarthy and he has done extremely well and his side have beaten some big guns like Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United.

"But I think there is more [pressure] on them than on us.

"We know the position we are in at the moment but we are not going to forecast on what is at stake. It is best to concentrate on our assets and the [league table] will take care of itself."

Villa, two points above the drop zone, are without four key defenders for the match.

Dunne, Collins and Luke Young are all unavailable through injury while Ciaran Clark starts a two-game ban for picking up 10 bookings.

Houllier played down the absences, however, saying: "That happens to all clubs. Even to Manchester United. Sometimes you have an injury crisis.

"We had that in the middle of the season with Stiliyan Petrov, Nigel Reo-Coker and Steve Sidwell from midfield.

"Now it happens at the back and the suspension of Clark doesn't help. But we will be all right. The option we have will be good and the players will respond positively and will show something.

"In any case, defending is not about two or three players, it is the matter of the whole team.

"At top level, your defending starts wherever you lose the ball, wherever it is on the pitch."

Michael Kightly was tipped as a potential Premier League star when Wolves were promoted to the top flight - and almost two years on McCarthy is hoping he will finally get the chance to prove his class.

The winger has made only nine Premier League appearances, and none since November 2009, because of a series of injuries, most recently operations on both knees.

But, after two reserve-team run-outs, Kightly has been included in Wolves' squad for the short trip to Villa.

McCarthy said: "Everyone believed Kights would be a good Premier League player and let's hope he gets the chance over these last nine games.

"It pleases me for him as much as anything. I know the supporters will be thrilled to see him back.

"The fact he played in the reserves the other week created plenty of excitement. He played 80-odd minutes and he went at it full tilt.

"We always have a young versus old game on a Friday and what really disappointed me was the fact he's now in the 'old' team.

"But it really is lovely to have him back and he's a terrific character around the place."

Also back in the squad after lengthy absences are defender Michael Mancienne and midfielder Adlene Guedioura.

Mancienne returned to Molineux this week after three and a half months back at parent club Chelsea receiving treatment for a knee problem while Guedioura broke his leg in the reverse fixture against Villa in September.

McCarthy thinks Villa's players will have no problem refocusing for the match.

"You look at their squad and the fact they've finished in the top six for the last three years and a lot of those players are still there," he said.

"So quite clearly they're an experienced Premier League club with quality players.

"All the stuff off the pitch doesn't mean anything - footballers have an ability to find a great performance from somewhere when you least expect it."

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Premier League
Aston Villa
Wolverhampton Wanderers

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