McLeish out to stun big guns

Villa entertain Liverpool on Sunday and also face Arsenal and

Chelsea in the next fortnight. McLeish is aware of the task of

competing with the spending power of the likes of the Reds who

splashed out £20million to sign winger Stewart Downing from

Villa last summer. But he wants his squad to relish such

opportunities as Villa strive to cement their spot in the top half

of the table. McLeish said: “There is a bit of a difference in the

spending power in what Liverpool have spent and who they’ve brought

to the club. “You are talking about guys who can make a huge

difference, not only in club but world football. “We are going in

against teams like that as underdogs in almost every game. “But we

are at home and the players have got to have no fear at this great

stadium of ours. “We’ve got to try and make sure the teams are

leaving Villa Park knowing they’ve been in a big game. “There is no

doubt games like this can bring the best out of players. “This is

where they earn their corn and get recognised as great players when

they start to take points off the big guns.” Marc Albrighton is one

player McLeish is hoping can help fill Downing’s role after his

summer exit. The winger has struggled to command a regular spot

this season after a dip in form but looked back to his best when

scoring in last weekend’s win at Bolton. McLeish said: “Albrighton

looks like he has found a wee bit of quality again. He never

stopped working hard to get his form back and that is all you can

do, never give up. “Last weekend we saw the Marc Albrighton that

shone brightly in last season’s campaign. “In terms of lack of

first-team football, it is down to the player. It’s players who get

themselves in the team and players who get themselves out of the

team, pure and simple. “Marc wasn’t doing well enough quality-wise

to get into the team but he was really working hard which is why we

kept him a big part of everything and we never discarded him.”

McLeish has played down speculation skipper Stiliyan Petrov is

available to leave Villa Park in January. He said: “I’ve not said

that. When I came in I looked at Villa’s midfield and Stiliyan was

the only experienced one in there. “I genuinely felt we would need

his experience this season. “I know he has modified his game and

has had to learn to do that since moving here from Celtic. “But he

always had a great strike on him as you’ve seen with his

contribution of three goals this season.” Striker Gabriel

Agbonlahor will serve a one-game ban for incurring five bookings

this season with Emile Heskey and Nathan Delfouneso in contention

to partner Darren Bent.