O'Neill learns from UEFA woes

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Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill will be looking to strengthen the side significantly in the summer if they qualify for their holy grail of the Champions League.

O'Neill knows that is the only way Villa will be able to compete, both at home and abroad, and in order to avoid a repeat of what has transpired over the last few days.

"I am now hoping, this time next year, if we get the chance again, we will be really strong," insisted O'Neill.

The fact he opted to leave eight of his stars at home ahead of last night's return leg of their last-32 UEFA Cup tie with CSKA Moscow sparked a furore and divided Villa fans.

Although those on show, including two 19-year-olds making their full debuts in midfielders Barry Bannan and Marc Albrighton, put up a commendable display, it was not enough on the plastic pitch of the Luzhniki Stadium and in sub-zero temperatures.

Goals on the hour from Yuri Zhirkov and in the third minute of stoppage time from Vagner Love gave CSKA a deserved 2-0 win on the night, 3-1 on aggregate.

The home side, still in pre-season, have already qualified for the Champions League, and that is where O'Neill hopes to take his team. But he knows a number of new faces will be required should Villa go on to rub shoulders with Europe's finest.

He added: "We will need to be as strong as the top British teams who have been in this position before, like Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United.

"I want to have the strength of squad to cope with the fixtures that come up.

"Given another opportunity, something this football club should be able to obtain, I think the experiences we've had, from July (the Intertoto Cup) through to now, will stand this team in good stead."

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Premier League
Manchester United
Aston Villa
Barry Bannan

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