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O'Neill: We must sell before we can buy

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill has admitted he will have to sell before he can bring in any new players during the January transfer window.

O'Neill revamped his squad in the summer with the signings of Habib Beye (£3 million) Richard Dunne (£5 million), James Collins (£6 million), Fabian Delph (£6million), Stephen Warnock (£8 million) and Stewart Downing (£12 million).

But he has conceded he will have to off-load before he can bring in new blood during the current window - with around £3.5 million likely to be recouped from the expected sale of midfielder Craig Gardner to Birmingham.

When asked if he was looking to sign a striker, O'Neill told Sky Sports: "We are not looking at players at this minute because we have to sell. Do I have to sell to buy? We wouldn't be the only club in that position.''

Villa's challenge for fourth spot has faltered of late and O'Neill's side have failed to score in their last three league games. But the Northern Irish boss is backing his players to start delivering the goods, starting with Wednesday's Carling Cup semi-final second leg against Blackburn.

"We have got to approach the game on its own merit and try and win the game from that viewpoint,'' he said. "I don't think we could be thinking about having any other approach because it takes only a second to get a goal and, if Blackburn score early on, you are back to level anyway.

"Any advantage can be taken away in seconds. We must have a positive approach, absolutely, and forget the first leg in effect. I also think Blackburn would have taken great heart from the fact that decisions went their way at Ewood Park.

"They could have been in more serious trouble at half-time in that particular match. They came out very strongly in the second half as we expected and yet we had some chances ourselves. The game tomorrow night will be very tight.''

And O'Neill is aware what a Wembley final would mean to the club, with Villa's last final appearance coming in 2000 when they were losing FA Cup finalists against Chelsea.

"There is no doubt, it is a very important game. We have come this far. I don't want to throw it away and we want to give everything we have and I know that is the one thing we will do.

"On the day, we may not get the luck to carry us through, I don't know, but it won't be through lack of trying. The players are buoyant and they can get even better as players and as a team. There is plenty of confidence about the team and we are ready to go.''

Striker John Carew is Villa's only new injury doubt with a knee injury suffered in training on Monday. But the Norway international has been confined chiefly to the bench in recent games and O'Neill is likely to retain the team which won at Ewood Park.

That will mean number two keeper Brad Guzan, who has played in the majority of the cup games this season, again taking over from Brad Friedel.

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