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By ESPN Staff

Reo-Coker targets Europe for Aston Villa

Aston Villa midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker believes European qualification has to be the target for Martin O'Neill's side this season.

Villa head into tomorrow's trip to Wigan in eighth place in the Barclays Premier League - three points away from a UEFA Cup spot and only six shy of the battle for a Champions League place.

Having shown they can mix it with the very best in the dramatic 4-4 Boxing Day draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Reo-Coker has no doubt Villa can sustain a European push this term as long as they come out of the festive programme still in touch.

England Under-21 international Reo-Coker said: 'I've always been aware of the Christmas period.

'You have to make sure that you do remain within touching distance of the two top teams.

'If you can make sure that you come out of the back end of January and you are just six to nine points off second place then you are having a really great season.

'It is really coming down to the fact that we have to make sure that we push ourselves all the way.

'The possibility of qualifying for the UEFA Cup and the Champions League is there to be achieved.

'If we can get on a good run then we will put ourselves in a good position to achieve this kind of objective.'

Whether Villa can stay in the race for Europe could hinge on two of the brightest talents at Villa Park, Reo-Coker's fellow under-21 internationals Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor.

The duo are starting to come of age this season but Reo-Coker does not feel they get the plaudits they deserve.

'I don't think Ashley Young or Gabby Agbonlahor have got the recognition that they deserve,' explained Reo-Coker.

'They are great talents and they have shown that tremendous ability already this season.

'Just look at the goals that Gabby has scored so far. They are not the average type of goals either that a 21-year-old should be scoring.'

While Young, Agbonlahor and John Carew have caught the eye for Villa in attack, it is the central midfield pairing of Reo-Coker and Gareth Barry that is proving to be the basis for Villa' success.

Reo-Coker is having to keep his natural attacking instincts in check to let Barry power forward.

But he is happy to do that and he said: 'I have always been a fan of Gareth Barry.

'He has great all round ability and a very good athlete. The best way to describe him is that all round player.

'I am sitting deeper than I have done before and it is something that I have added to my game this season.

'It is a new avenue which has opened up for me. There is a lot of detail which goes into that role but people only see the goalscorer and the player with all the flair.

'I am happy to sit away from the limelight so long as I play my role in the team and we are successful.'