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Arsenal can lay down a marker

Arsenal
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By ESPN Staff

Villa consider Intertoto route to Europe

Aston Villa have applied to enter next season's Intertoto Cup in case they fail to qualify automatically for Europe via the Premier League.

The competition format has altered since Villa last entered the Intertoto back in 2002 and Martin O'Neill's side would only have to negotiate one round to reach the second qualifying round of the UEFA Cup.

If Villa do qualify for the Intertoto, they would play one two-legged tie over the weekends of July 19-20 and 26-27.

Villa have entered the Intertoto on three previous occasions and won the competition in 2001.

O'Neill said: 'It's just covering bases, but we've got a chance to qualify automatically for Europe and we're going to try and charge on if we can.

'We've got ourselves into a position where we've got a 12-game season and we'll be going into it all guns blazing. The boys have been magnificent during the first two thirds of the season.

'We are making good progress and I couldn't ask any more from the players. They have given me everything.

'We had a superb finish to last season, being unbeaten in the last nine games, and it would be nice if something similar happened again.

'Entering the Intertoto is in no way a signal that we've given up hope of qualifying for Europe automatically. Nothing could be further from the truth.'