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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 2, 2008

Juve bound Olof hopes for winning send-off

Olof Mellberg has saluted the Aston Villa fans as he prepares to make his last home appearance - against Wigan Athletic on Saturday - before heading off to Juventus in the summer.

And defender Mellberg is determined to try to help Martin O'Neill's side clinch a place in Europe before heading for Serie A.

The Sweden international will be guaranteed a warm send-off from the Holte End as he brings down the curtain on seven seasons with the midlands club.

That bond between Mellberg and the fans was demonstrated when he raised clenched fists all around the ground and received a standing ovation when substituted in the dying seconds of the 5-1 demolition of Birmingham 12 days ago.

Mellberg, 30, said: 'The fans have always been fantastic towards me and I will always be grateful for the support they have shown towards me.

'I'll always remember that reception I got after the derby win. That game with Blues has always meant a lot to me and I know what it means to the supporters.

'It is not often you can off as a substitute knowing you are definitely going to win the game so it was nice to celebrate with the fans.

'Hopefully I can finish at home with a win against Wigan and it would be important for Villa if they can overtake Everton and achieve European football.'

Mellberg, 30, added: 'I've said before that I haven't been obsessed with playing in Europe but it has always been a goal to get there because it is such an achievement in itself to get there through the Premier League.

'If I was obsessed with European football, I would go to a smaller league and join a top team and play there every year. Taking the team into Europe through the Premier League itself would be special.

'We had a bit of a bad spell in March but then had an unbelievable three games in which we scored 15 goals before twice coming back to draw at Everton.

'It has been a strength to come out and perform the way we have done with the pressure so hopefully we can finish it off as well.'

Mellberg also believes clinching a UEFA Cup spot would make it easier for Villa to hold onto young talent such as Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor.

He said: 'I think Europe would help players to stay at Villa. We have performed well and I don't think the young lads here could have enjoyed their football much more than this season.

'Europe will be good for them but first of all we have got to achieve it.'