Martin O'Neill claims fixtures not fair on Aston Villa
Published 23:00 18/12/09 By MirrorFootball
Martin O'Neill fears Stoke could wreck Aston Villa’s Champions League bid for a second successive season.
Villa boss O’Neill is delighted with his fourth-placed team’s form after a six-game unbeaten run, including three successive wins.
But he is worried today’s opponents Stoke have gained an unfair advantage by not playing a Premier League game in midweek.
O’Neill has joined Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger in slamming the Premier League’s fixture compilers.
Wenger is preparing to face Hull and has moaned the Tigers had their midweek match with Everton postponed.
And while Villa trekked to Sunderland on Tuesday, the Potters were resting as their fixture with Fulham was moved to January 5 because of the Cottagers’ Europa League game.
O’Neill said: “It’s interesting Arsene Wenger made the point that in what should have been a full Premier League programme some teams didn’t play in midweek.
“I understand where he is coming from because some teams are getting an advantage.
“Stoke City didn’t play this week and it stands to reason they would be fresher than us. I can understand what’s been said.
“It should have been a full programme but it clashed with the Europa League.
“I don’t care - the Premier League should have had a look at that.
“Are those added few days rest worth an extra few per cent? Without question.
“I know they talk about a congested programme but maybe they should have a look at a few of these things.”
Villa are up for revenge over Stoke after the Potters took four points off them last term to affect their top four charge.
Villa even led Stoke 2-0 at home in March last season but the visitors salvaged a point through late strikes from Ryan Shawcross and Glenn Whelan.
O’Neill’s team eventually slumped to sixth place but their defence is much stronger now having kept three consecutive clean sheets with new signing Richard Dunne and Carlos Cuellar in fine form.
O’Neill added. “Last season at home to Stoke was definitely a blow to us and we played Manchester City a few days later and were unable to raise our game sufficiently.
“So we have to be very, very careful of the set-pieces Stoke will have during the course of the game, they will cause problems.
“I think they have added more quality to the team this season which has made them stronger. I think they will be a genuine handful.
“We have to be strong. Defensively we certainly we won’t shirk the challenge and that will give us more encouragement.”