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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 21, 2006

Angel planning European campaign for Villa

Juan Pablo Angel wants Aston Villa to build on their unbeaten start to the season and qualify for Europe - with the Carling Cup offering the most likely route.

Villa are fifth in the Premiership after staying unbeaten in their opening five league matches since Martin O'Neill took over as manager, and the new boss has pedigree in the League Cup.

O'Neill won the trophy in his final season at Leicester and his next game in the competition was Villa's 2-1 win over Scunthorpe on Wednesday, with Angel scoring his third and fourth goals of the campaign.

'This is the best route into Europe and the manager wants us to take this competition very seriously,' said Angel.

'I have four goals now this season - so far, so good. There is still a long way to go, but I am really pleased with the way things are going for me and for the team.

'We are still unbeaten and I'm delighted. I had a fantastic run in this competition a couple of seasons ago.'

Villa reached the semi-finals in the 2003/04 season, with Angel scoring seven goals along the way, and the Colombia striker netted 23 in all competitions during that campaign.

The 30-year-old has struggled to recapture that goalscoring touch since but O'Neill is confident the striker still has the attributes reach those heights again.

'I've been pretty pleased with him, he's had one fantastic season and maybe was a bit disappointed that things didn't kick on from there, and he's had to re-start again,' said the Villa boss, who also won the League Cup as a player.

'At the minute he's doing fine - I've said to him `if you had any pace he'd be sensational' - and if he continues to score goals then that's his trademark.

'I'm very pleased with him, he's done well and he wants to do it, which is very important for us.

'There isn't any physical reason why he can't show the form of two or three seasons ago. He wants to do it, and that is encouraging.'

Angel opened the scoring just before half-time at Glanford Park, tapping in the rebound after his own penalty was saved. His second was a powerful header from an Aaron Hughes cross.

O'Neill was pleased with the striker's performance, particularly with the reputation South American players have of not being motivated for trips to lower-league teams.

'We've had the occasional good South American players, like Pele or Diego Maradona, I'm sure Pele wouldn't have been bothered where he played a League Cup game,' said O'Neill, whose side had to hold on against Scunthorpe after Billy Sharp pulled a late goal back.

Gavin McCann was substituted in the first half at Glanford Park with a calf injury, although the extent of the damage is unclear.

'We're keeping our fingers crossed about Gavin but we will have to wait and see how it is,' O'Neill said.

While other managers choose to rest players for the Carling Cup, O'Neill indicated how seriously he takes the competition by picking a strong side.

Only injury-prone Martin Laursen was rested, with Angel adding: 'I think we showed that by treating Scunthorpe with respect.

'We put out a very strong team and we're delighted to be into the next round. The priority was to get through to the next round and we managed to do that.'