O'Neill braced for key clashes

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Martin O'Neill is confident Aston Villa's Champions League challenge will not fizzle out - and he is hoping a five-day break in Dubai will recharge the batteries for the final leg of the season.

Villa's run without a win was extended to six games in all competitions following their 2-0 setback at Manchester City.

O'Neill said: "I accept we might be a bit naive and that the top-four sides, who are there consistently every single year, have a bit more know-how."

Recently there have been signs that a heavy schedule is starting to take its toll on one of the smallest squads in the top flight.

But Villa remain three points clear of fifth-placed Arsenal and O'Neill believes his players will be excited by and not become nervous at the challenges that lie ahead.

O'Neill added: "We should relish the challenge ahead. I think there is a genuine excitement among the players.

"They have not been in this position before. We want to try to press on. We have a really difficult run-in but we are down to a 10-game season.

"This is a position Aston Villa have never been in (to qualify for the Champions League) and it is something they should really have a go at."

O'Neill added: "I don't know how much of this 10-game season will be played in the mind. I would rather get out onto the field and win some matches, which we have failed to do recently.

"You can draw any conclusion you want from that. They are tough matches coming up. But if that doesn't excite you, you really should not be playing."

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