O'Neill urges Villa to enjoy game

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Martin O'Neill has told his players they should savour the chance to pull off a rare double against Arsenal at Villa Park on Boxing Day.

Third-placed Villa won 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium last month and another win would move them six points clear of the Gunners and put them firmly in the race to qualify for the Champions League.

Villa boss O'Neill, who has an injury doubt over central defender Martin Laursen due to a knee problem, said: "Confidence is high, no doubt about that. We are going in with confidence and that confidence can hide a few deficiencies."

He added: "The players are getting a bit of praise and some of it may be over the top but they have deserved it at the end of the day because they have done exceptionally well.

"This is a game to look forward to and savour. It would be hard to play Arsenal and not get some enjoyment out of the game.

"They are a very fine footballing side. Last season, their first-half performance at Villa Park was sensational.

"They will still feel as if they are in the title race and who is to say they aren't. But I think we are getting better and it should be a fine game."

By Arsenal's own standards, their Barclays Premier League campaign has been something of a disappointment so far but O'Neill still does not think Villa will be viewed as favourites for the game.

He added: "We are talking about us having a good season and people are saying Arsenal have had an indifferent one.

"Well, only three points separate us and they have just qualified for the final 16 of the Champions League. It wouldn't worry me if we went into the game as favourites. It wouldn't be something we would think about beforehand."

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