Vlaar set for Liverpool test
Ron Vlaar is bracing himself for a challenging time against an old foe when Aston Villa aim to take a further step towards safety on Sunday.
Memories of clashes on the other side of the North Sea will come flooding back when the Dutchman squares up at Villa Park to Liverpool player of the season Luis Suarez. "I know him from Holland," Vlaar said. "He was top scorer in the Dutch League and if he can do it here, it says something about his capabilities. He's a very good player, very strong.
"You can see he has a lot of qualities and he scored a lot of goals in the Dutch league. It took a while before he scored against Feyenoord but I was injured, so it was not my doing! You can see he scores so easily. He's always in the right spot and the way he dribbles with the ball is great. He's very good.
"I think he has improved. He's one of the best players I've played against."
It was in high-profile Feyenoord-Ajax games that the two were formerly rivals and Vlaar admits Villa - back in the bottom three after yesterday's results - need to exercise full care and attention as they seek to record a third successive victory.
"It was always fair with him in Holland," he added. "You don't feel good if someone makes a dive and he gets rewarded, with a penalty or something. But it is also part of the game.
"We have to try to avoid the situation. That's what we have to do as a team because of course they will attack us.
"We have to avoid the situations so he cannot even make a dive. It is a long time since he did it. I think it was in the beginning of the season and now it is a lot better.
"Everybody talks about his qualities and not about his diving now and I think that is what he would want as well. He wants us to talk about his qualities and I think he is doing the right things at the moment.
"You talk about the dives in England. It was the same in Holland. What can I say? Things happen in a game. The story follows him but I think it's getting better now. It was more in the first half of the season.
"I remember there were some issues in the papers (in Holland), where it was talked about. It stopped here, just as there. You don't talk about it so much now. I think the quality of the player has made that change."
Vlaar has revealed that his vote in the PFA vote will go to his countryman Robin Van Persie rather than the Liverpool star but is much happier with life on his own doorstep after Villa's wins over Reading and QPR.
Wigan's win over Norwich has turned up the pressure, though, and Vlaar knows he needs to be on his game. The stats also underline that Paul Lambert's side have performed better with the former Feyenoord man in their side to help marshal the many youngsters at the back.
"I don't know the stats," he said. "I just do as well as I can. I'm 28 and a bit more experienced – not in the Premier League but with age and international games.
"I always try to help but I also make mistakes this season. It's the same for everybody. I cannot tell why (we play better with me in the team). I just try to do as well as I can and help everybody.
"It's also my first season here, so you have to get used to a different style and things like that. Overall, I think it's not going too bad for me but I always expect more from myself. If you finish a season and go on the next season, you know what to expect the next season. I want to improve every day and adapt.
"If you win games, that's where it all starts for confidence. They were very important wins against teams under us. We really needed them.
"I still have the feeling that it is getting better here every day. It has already been said here so many times about the age of the group. We have to improve. We still make mistakes and we're still learning. I said it many times that wins give confidence. We've done it now two times in a row and it would be great to get a third."