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Quest for fourth to get harder - Agbonlahor

Gabriel Agbonlahor has admitted Aston Villa must seize the chance to break into the Champions League this season as the likes of Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur will make it even tougher in 2009-10.

Villa have slipped out of the top four of the Premier League after picking up only one point from their last five matches and now trail Arsenal by three points.

Martin O'Neill's side now they face a daunting trip to face leaders Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.

But striker Agbonlahor is aware that the money Mark Hughes and Harry Redknapp are likely to spend in the summer makes it even more crucial for Villa to grab their current opportunity this season.

''For us to finish in the top four will be hard - but it will be good for the Premiership if someone can do it, whether it's us, Everton or whoever," said Agbonlahor.

''Manchester City and Tottenham will be pushing hard next season. That's why we really want to make it this time because next year it will be even harder when you look at the money that Man City and Spurs will spend.

''Next season there could be seven or eight challenging for a top-four place.''

Agbonlahor, who shook off a hamstring injury to be called up by Fabio Capello, concedes it has been hard not to contemplate playing in the Champions League for the first time.

He said: ''We've been up challenging for the top four all season and also involved in the cup competitions. We've had a lot of games. It has been hard not to think about the Champions League. It's a fantastic competition that everyone here would love to be a part of.

''It's on your mind all the time. You look at all the other results and work out how it affects you. Now we go to United and apparently I wasn't even born when we last won there - but there's no reason why we can't change that. Our away form has been good overall this season.''

Agbonlahor added: ''Too many teams go to Old Trafford and just give up without even trying. But teams like Everton, who went there with a positive attitude, almost got something.

''We're treating every game like a cup final and hopefully that will be enough at the end of the season. If it's not, then we will build on things next season.''

Agbonlahor could be reunited up front with John Carew as Emile Heskey is unlikely to have recovered from his hamstring injury - suffered against Slovakia when on England duty - in time to face the Red Devils.


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