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The tale of two talismans


Villa hopeful of United upset

Aston Villa are bracing themselves to have a crack at bursting Manchester United's bubble as red-hot title favourites when the sides meet at Old Trafford on Monday.

• Lambert confident of survival
• Blog: Keep calm Villa

Sunderland's eye-catching victory at Newcastle on Sunday kept the pressure on Paul Lambert's side just above the Premier League's bottom three, especially as the Midlanders' next assignment is such a challenging one.

But Lambert believes his players will embrace the task and try to make a name for themselves, having already recorded high-scoring victories at Norwich (in the Capital One Cup), Liverpool and Stoke this season and drawn 3-3 at Everton.

"Every game is tough and Manchester United are the champions elect," Lambert said. "But you've got to go there and play them. You know that people will raise their game because nobody will give us a chance.

"We've got to give it a go. I don't think you can just sit there and wait, and wait, and wait. You'll end up getting beaten anyway, so we may as well give it a go.

"We've got a big following going to watch us and I think you have to go and try to get something. You just never know what might happen."

Lambert's bold call has been echoed by Villa's weekend goalscorer Charles N'Zogbia.

The French midfielder may be jettisoned again if Gabby Agbonlahor recovers in time from a thigh problem, but he detects a positive spirit in the camp.

"In football, anything can happen," he said. "Everybody knows Manchester United are a big team and they are fighting for the title. But we are fighting in the relegation battle, so you never know. It'll be a massive game, against big players and a big team."

History hardly supports Villa in their quest in five days' time. A year ago this week, Alex McLeish's side were thrashed 4-0 at Old Trafford and the club have won there only once in 21 league and cup visits in the Premier League era.


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