Villa hope to reap benefits against Sheff Utd
Martin O'Neill hopes rising star Gabriel Agbonlahor will have reaped the benefits from a mini-break when Aston Villa return to action in tonight's Premiership clash with Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.
Agbonlahor has been given his first extended run in the senior side under O'Neill and had been so effective that he has played every minute of every game so far this season.
O'Neill admits he is finding it impossible to rest the England Under-21 player given his form and Villa's lack of depth in their squad.
But the nine-day break from action ahead of the clash with the Blades at least gave O'Neill the opportunity to allow Agbonlahor and other players the chance to briefly recharge their batteries.
O'Neill said: 'With the way the fixtures have fallen, and us not playing until Monday, this has been the first break the international players have had for quite a while and I gave them a couple of days off.
'You don't know how that works out but I think it was the best thing to do.
'I think, for instance, young Gabby (Agbonlahor) has played every single minute of every single game and that would have been a genuine surprise to him if you had said that at the start of the season.
'The very fact we've been unable to rest him might show our lack of strength in depth but that's up to us to address that.
'This is a big period coming up between now and new year and I told him to go away and rest. Rest is as important as the playing.
'I said `just go and stop thinking about football for a day or two - go and relax'.
'I wouldn't know what every single player is doing every single minute. The idea is to rest and get themselves mentally tuned in as well as physically.'
O'Neill is hoping another youngster, Steven Davis, is finally back to his best after struggling to find last season's form during the opening months of the current campaign.
He said: 'Steven has come back refreshed after being rested from the team for a couple of games, and against Portsmouth in the last match was as strong as he has been for us this season. He did very well.'
Striker Chris Sutton could return against Neil Warnock's side after missing the last three matches with a calf problem but skipper Gareth Barry will be serving a one-game ban for incurring five bookings.