Villa grateful for extended break
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has welcomed a two-week break from Premier League action and believes it will give his side the chance to recharge the batteries for their fight against relegation.
Villa moved out of the bottom three in the Premier League with last Sunday's victory over West Ham United - but any chance to build momentum will have to wait until they visit Arsenal on February 23.
But Lambert feels the lay-off will give the required time to clear up recent illness and injury problems at Villa Park and give him a fully fit squad for the remainder of the season.
Charles N'Zogbia suffered a knee injury in the 2-1 victory while a sickness bug at the club deprived Villa of striker Gabriel Agbonlahor and midfielder Karim El Ahmadi.
"We have got this breather now after what has been a hectic period and there have also been lads away with their various national teams. It will give them a break," said Lambert.
"It will also let people like Gabby and Charles recover from illness and injury. Charles has hurt his knee and Ron Vlaar also took a knock.
"There has also been a sickness bug at the club. Ashley Westwood had it during last week and Gabby and Karim had it the night before the West Ham game and on the day of the match.
"It was a blow but hopefully everyone will be okay and fit for the Arsenal game."
Lambert believes there are as many as nine other clubs involved in the relegation struggle and feels his side have responded superbly to the pressure.
"From mid-table to the bottom, there is little in it and another eight or nine teams are doing the same as what we are doing," said Lambert.
"The players have taken a lot of knocks and a lot of criticism, but we've never let their heads go down. That's important."