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Barry: Agbonlahor can make England grade

Aston Villa skipper Gareth Barry is confident Gabriel Agbonlahor can take the step up to the England senior squad if he is given his chance by new coach Fabio Capello.

Agbonlahor was close to being called up by Capello's predecessor Steve McClaren after impressive displays for Villa during the past 18 months.

Instead it was his Villa team-mate Ashley Young who was handed his chance in the friendly international against Austria in Vienna in November.

But Barry is convinced Agbonlahor can make the grade, with Capello due to announce his first squad at the end of this month for the international with Switzerland at Wembley on February 6.

Barry said: 'You read people saying that that Fabio Capello is looking at Gabby and, if that is the case, then I think it is deservedly so.

'There are going to be a lot of changes under the new regime. Gabby is someone making a lot of headlines and I am sure the new manager has picked up on them.

'If he gets his chance with England, it is a big step up but I am sure he can take it because he has got that confidence at the moment to take into the team.'

Barry, who will lead Villa in Saturday's home FA Cup clash with Manchester United, added: 'The difference between Gabby and a lot of players is that he has got that extra bit of pace.

'You have got big players and a couple like Gabby who have got that extra yard. He is as fast as there is. There are not too many who can stay with him and he is certainly in the top two or three.

'It frightens defenders but Gabby has also worked hard on all parts of his game like his strength and he can also hold the ball up as well now and bring others into play. His all-round game is coming on.'

Villa will be meeting United in the competition for the fourth time in seventh years and Barry is optimistic they can finally overcome the Red Devils.

He said: 'We are used to facing United in the cup and it is a long time since we beat them. It is always going to be tough.

'They are the Premier League champions and always play some of their best football away from home so that is going to make it even tougher for ourselves.

'But we have got great belief in our team and if we can take our chances, you never know what might happen.

'We were 1-0 up against them earlier this season at Villa Park, missed a good chance to go 2-0 up and it is little things like that which can make the difference.

'They then hit us with three goals in nine minutes. That is the difference between your top teams and your average teams.

'You know they are top class at counter-attacking and taking their chances so hopefully we have learnt from the league game.'