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Mar 15, 2013

Lambert: Redknapp playing mind games

Paul Lambert believes Harry Redknapp is playing mind games by suggesting that Aston Villa are the club with the biggest weight on their mind going into Saturday's crucial basement clash with Queens Park Rangers.

• Blog: Midfield momentum key

Redknapp, whose first game in charge of QPR was the home draw against Villa in December, said earlier this week that the tension of the occasion was greater around Villa Park than it was at Loftus Road.

However, his counterpart Lambert downplayed that remark with a smile on Friday.

"The two of us are under pressure," Lambert said. "I understand what he's saying about the home team and all that. But he's probably playing mind games by talking about the home fans. It's a big game, a pressure game - so was last week at Reading.

"We'll have a fantastic crowd behind us tomorrow and we look forward to it. I thought the fans were exceptional last week and away fans can sometimes be more vocal. It's up to us to give our supporters something back."

During his time as Tottenham manager, Redknapp was highly critical of the behaviour of Villa supporters around the visiting dug-out at Villa Park and was jeered on his next visit.

But Lambert, sensitive to the welfare of managers following this week's sacking of Brian McDermott at Reading, said: "I didn't know there was history with Harry and the fans here but I don't like to hear derogatory non-football things. I want them to concentrate on us; drive us on and roar us on.

"You never like to see anybody lose their job as Brian just has. He took them up and made them all the money - make millions and then lose your job. They are in a much better position than two years ago and he has made a huge contribution to it. It doesn't have to be based on just results any more. It might just be that your face doesn't fit.

"You never know what's round the corner. You just concentrate on your job and you've got to handle what comes with it. I don't worry about it. What happens, happens. You have to be ruthless in the game but you know how others feel because it happens to yourself. We have to win for ourselves."

Villa have not won two successive Premier League games since 2011, but the prize for victory against QPR is obvious with the breathing space that it would establish in the relegation scramble.

Their 2-1 victory at Reading opened the door to possible safety during a weekend in which Wigan were winning handsomely in the FA Cup sixth round.

But Lambert is as unwilling to expend energy setting points targets as he is in comparing the financial muscle of Villa and Saturday's opponents.

"I'm not so sure what the safety mark is," he said. "A lot depends on other results and it's hard to say what's going to do it. You try to win your next game and see what happens elsewhere. We have a lot of confidence at the moment. We'll go into the game feeling good. If you can't play well but you win, you take that and move on to the next one.

"Rangers brought new players in during January and this has the makings of a real good game. We're trying to build and do the right things. Everyone has their way and this is Aston Villa's way of doing it. We have to make sure of winning it rather than worry about QPR."

Lambert, who will again be unable to call on Darren Bent because of continuing tenderness in his foot, faces a late decision between the recovering Charles N'Zogbia and his replacement last weekend, Yacouba Sylla.

He described the January capture's contribution against Reading six days ago as exceptional, adding: "He showed great temperament for such an important game."

Lambert has also again praised the way Ciaran Clark and Nathan Baker have recovered from nightmare mistakes in the last two games.

"They could have capitulated but I thought they came on really strong," Lambert said. "Nathan has been playing really well, so the idea of speaking to him during the game last week was to make sure one mistake didn't make him feel really bad. He has been excellent for several weeks."

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