Sidwell: Villa are contenders
Steve Sidwell is confident Aston Villa can still challenge for a UEFA Champions League spot, despite the lack of depth in their squad heading into the final week of the summer transfer window. Villa have made a poor start to the campaign, losing their Premier League opener at home to Wigan Athletic and then being beaten at Rapid Vienna in the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg.
They now face a demanding meeting with Liverpool at Anfield on Monday, having lost the corresponding fixture 5-0 last season. But Sidwell has faith in Villa's ability to still compete for a top-four position, despite the big spending of the likes of Manchester City.
"Is the top four further away now? Not at all," said Sidwell. "It is going to be a very tight league this year, as you can see from some of the results already. We will still be in there competing come the end of the season.
"It is important for us to get our season on track as soon as possible really. We've got a tough game at Liverpool. There has been a lot of progression at other clubs, but we've got more than enough to deal with that and be contenders.
"The two defeats have not affected the mood. It has been tough. At every club you want to get off to a good start, especially in the Premier League and in Europe. It hasn't happened for us but we are a good, young, vibrant side that can deal with that, and the most important thing at the moment is that the games come thick and fast to easily turn it around."
"People mention how thin the squad is but you have just got to deal with it. I am sure the manager and the board and the staff are all looking to get players in. At the moment it doesn't seem to be happening and we've got to deal with that the best we can.
"One thing you can say with a thin squad is that you've got stability. If you are going to be playing the same sort of team every week, the players will get used to each other. We've got more than enough young and hungry talented players in there who want to play and win every game."
Sidwell backs Reds' push
Sidwell expects Liverpool to again challenge for the title, despite the loss of key midfielder Xabi Alonso. "They will be challenging for the title," said the former Reading and Chelsea midfielder. "They have always been a top-four side.
"Last year was the closest they have been to winning the league for a while. They will take confidence from that. Steven Gerrard is one of the biggest match-winning players in the Premier League. I am sure they will run Manchester United and Chelsea close."
Centre-back Curtis Davies is doubtful for the meeting with Liverpool after a recurrence of his shoulder problem. The 24-year-old suffered the setback during the latter stages of the game in Vienna. His replacement, rookie Shane Lowry, is amongst the candidates to fill his void, although Habib Beye could switch from right-back.
Manager Martin O'Neill will also be hoping John Carew is fit to make his first appearance of the campaign. The Norwegian forward, the club's top scorer for the past two seasons, missed the defeat by Wigan with a foot injury and then pulled out of the Vienna game with a virus.