Wednesday 17 January 2018

Petrov eager to prove his worth at Villa Park

John Curtis

Aston Villa skipper Stiliyan Petrov wants to prove manager Gerard Houllier wrong and play a bigger role in the battle for Premier League survival.

Petrov won his 100th cap for Bulgaria during the recent international break and the achievement was honoured by Villa ahead of Sunday's game with Newcastle.

The midfielder is no longer guaranteed a place in the Villa starting line-up, with Houllier signing Jean Makoun in January and giving an extended run to the in-form Nigel Reo-Coker.

But Petrov was back in the first XI for the first time in more than two months -- apart from an FA Cup tie at Manchester City -- against the Magpies.

He earned praise after the game from Houllier and is hoping he can have a greater involvement in the finale to the campaign.

Petrov said: "It is difficult when you are not playing, not just because I'm the club captain, but because I love playing.

"It's been a frustrating time and it's not been happening for me. But you just have to deal with it and try and get back in the team.

"It is down to the manager to decide. He makes the decisions and we just need to stick with them.

"I can only prove him wrong with my game.

"I feel I have done that. I hope I can keep going now."

Petrov admits that ensuring Villa stay in the top flight is the most important thing.

He said: "The main thing is to stay in the top flight because we are in a very difficult position.

"With all the talent that we have got here, and haven't shown this season, we know that we can win games.

Clean sheets

"As long as we can keep clean sheets, we know that we have got players who can score goals.

"It was a massive win for us against Newcastle. I'm not going to lie, we know how important the three points were for us.

"We know where we are at the moment and it was massive."

Petrov added: "We have had a frustrating season and when we get the points that make us safe, maybe we will play some more football.

"At the moment it is about getting points and climbing the table.

"It's hard, we've been looking behind our backs for a long time but I hope we get out of it soon."

Newcastle 'keeper Steve Harper believes injuries and suspensions have taken their toll, with Kevin Nolan, Cheick Tiote and Shola Ameobi, who was due to have a knee scan yesterday, all absent at Villa Park.

He said: "When you take three massive players out of the heart of your team, it is going to be to the detriment of the team.

"To be without Kevin Nolan and Cheick Tiote was massive for us -- but losing Shola overnight was one too many.

"Suspensions and injuries are killing us.

"We knew we had a small squad and that's why last week (against Wolves) was a massive result."

The Magpies entertain Manchester United this day next week and Harper is hoping the Red Devils' demanding schedule before that game will take its toll.

He said: "We've got to hope the two big games, the Champions League game and the FA Cup semi-final, take a lot out of them this week because they are flying in the league.

"It will be a very tough game for us but hopefully they will have two tough games this week and we will have 52,000 roaring us on and a few first-choice bodies back out there."

Irish Independent

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