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By ESPN Staff

Luke Young: Villa are better off this season

Luke Young insists Aston Villa now have a ''stronger mentality'' to cope with any setbacks and to avoid a repeat of last season's disappointing fade-out which cost them a Champions League spot.

Villa lost both their games during the festive season against Arsenal and Liverpool to drop out of the top four of the Premier League. It brought back memories of how Villa surrendered a five-point lead over Arsenal at the start of March last season as they ran out of steam and eventually finished sixth. But Young is adamant the characters and quality in the current dressing room - plus the benefit of an extra year's experience - will mean Villa get back on track sooner rather than later.

He said: ''Do I sense a stronger mentality this season? Definitely. We've brought some big characters in like Richard Dunne and Stephen Warnock - and Stewart Downing is a great player as well. We are better equipped this year. We've got more options if you like and everyone knows they've got to be on their toes to stay in the side.

''We've got an extra year's experience. It all came very soon to us last season. We were learning along the way and we are determined that bad run we had won't happen again.''

Villa now take a break from league action for two crucial clashes with Blackburn - in the third round of the FA Cup at Villa Park on Saturday and in the semi-finals of the Carling Cup at Ewood Park next Tuesday.

Young said: ''There's no time to dwell on results. There are so many games coming thick and fast this month. We've got to concentrate on the next game coming up and that's Blackburn on Saturday.

''Do we expect a physical game? You know when you play Blackburn that is part and parcel of their game. But they've got a lot of skill as well. They are not just a tough side who go with the long ball all the time.

''They have a few flair players in there as well who can cause us damage. You know what you're coming up against when you face a Sam Allardyce team. We can cope with that.''

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