O'Neill: Race for fourth wide open
Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill believes the race for a UEFA Champions League spot is still wide open despite his side dropping two more points in the home draw with Sunderland.
Villa needed a John Carew goal - his 14th of the season - to cancel out an earlier effort from Sunderland striker Fraizer Campbell. That followed on from Saturday's disappointing 2-2 home draw with Wolves.
But, with Manchester City being beaten at home by Everton, O'Neill is still optimistic about a top four finish even though Villa now trail Tottenham by four points. He said: "We just couldn't get that elusive second goal and we were disappointed in the dressing room afterwards. But the Manchester City result keeps us in there still.
"Tottenham will be delighted that the two of us have dropped points but we all have some tough fixtures ahead. It is going to be really tight and there will be many twists and turns in the final part of the season before things are settled."
O'Neill's main concern is a trio of injuries with Emile Heskey, Richard Dunne and James Milner all facing scans to determine the extent of their respective Achilles problems. Heskey limped off early in the first half and Milner followed suit after the break to leave O'Neill with a few fitness headaches ahead of Saturday's trip to title-chasing Chelsea.
He said: "Emile came off with an Achilles problem and James did well to play for as long as he did because he was sore beforehand. Richard Dunne also has an Achilles problem and the three of them are all going for a scan. It is partly down to the number of games we have played. Overall we have been lucky with injuries, but the number of games does take its toll."
Sunderland boss Steve Bruce believes his side could be only one win away from guaranteeing top-flight football for another season after collecting nine points from their last five games. He said: "Will 38 points be enough? I would think so but the one thing we can't do is take anything for granted.
"Possibly one win will be enough but we have got Liverpool on Saturday, Tottenham next week and then West Ham in three weeks time. But we have done quite well of late and today we proved it. We have been a bit more settled with our big players being able to play and that has made a difference.
"It has been a tough winter through players missing through injury but we have lost only one of the last nine games, against Arsenal, and we have hit a bit of form. We have also become a little bit more resilient."