Houllier hopes to boost Villa squad

Houllier is preparing for his first derby against Birmingham on

Sunday without several key players through injury and suspension.

Skipper Stiliyan Petrov and striker Gabriel Agbonlahor are

sidelined through injury, while fast emerging winger Marc

Albrighton is suspended after his red card against Burnley in the

Carling Cup. Houllier is not a big fan of the January window but

acknowledges he will need to add new blood. He said: “I don’t like

January because January is not a good period. But you need to be

blind not to see that there are some areas where we are not blessed

with numbers. “If we spot a really good player with

internationally-proven experience who can bring something to the

team, particularly in some areas, we will take him. “We need to

bring some players in. That’s it. I think we will have one or two

coming in January. “Will it be up front? Not necessarily.” Houllier

is aware of the passion generated by a derby but stressed the need

to concentrate on playing football at Villa Park. He is also

expecting the same response from his long-time friend and

Birmingham manager Alex McLeish. He said: “I had the Lyon-St

Etienne derbies and the Liverpool-Everton derbies. I know the

importance of the derby for the fans and the players. The players

talk about it, which is good. “All I know is that we need to play

our football. At the end of the day, it is a game of football.

“Knowing their manager very well, I don’t think he will pump up the

players to do anything but just play football. “The more fiery it

becomes, the more composure you have to give. The derbies also

shows a lot about the character of your players. I very much like

the mental attitude of the players.” Villa have won only one of

their last six Premier League matches but Houllier is happy with

the level of performance. He added: “I don’t think our defeat

against Tottenham or Sunderland should make us blush. The

performance levels have been better than the results. That is the

message to the players.” Villa have triumphed in the last six

meetings with Birmingham, three of them with McLeish in charge. But

Houllier feels that record will have little bearing on Sunday’s

noon encounter. He said: “The past is the past, whether it is

players or results. It is a different era. “We are looking forward

to this derby. Don’t make reference to the past. “That is always

the message to the players. The most important game is the coming

game, and that’s the derby.”