Laursen Blog: Players will be extra motivated for Man City clash
3rd Mar 2013
I saw their game against Chelsea and they played really well.
They still haven't lost to Manchester United in the title race yet - they are still hopeful of repeating what they did last season when everyone thought United had got the championship in the bag.
The confidence of Roberto Mancini's players will be high so it is going to be a very difficult game for Villa.
But from my experiences of these matches, as a player you really look forward to playing against the big stars at Villa Park and trying to test yourself against the very best.
It is a great motivation for every Villa player.
They should be really up for it and they need every point they can get at the moment so it is a massive game.
When you are playing as the underdog in games like this there are two key things.
I always say that against good technical players like Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and David Silva, a good start is vital.
It is so important, in particular for defenders, to make a good start, to make a good tackle early on and show them that you are up for it.
You can't allow them to get their confidence up early on and allow them to think it is going to be easy.
Aguero and these kinds of players will be very difficult to mark, so it is important to get your first tackle in and show that you are really up for it.
Then obviously with the great technical players, you have to work hard and stay close to them all the time to make sure they do not have too much space.
Those are the key things, I think - to have a good start, to stay close to them and above all to have great belief.
Even though Villa are in this position going into a match against one of the top teams, you have to enjoy it and be happy that you are playing in a game like this.
The return of Gareth Barry and James Milner - two people I know very well - brings another edge to the occasion.
Gareth and James have both played well since moving to City.
Obviously they are not playing in every game because there are a lot of good players at Manchester City.
But they are playing a fair amount of games and both are doing well.
I am happy for both of them because they are two great guys and two great players.
It is pleasing to see Charles N'Zogbia hitting his best form at such an important time.
I think he is at his best when he doesn't necessarily have a position that he has to stick to.
Also, to see him take free-kicks like the one against West Ham and to score goals from the positions like that, is also very, very good as it gives us a chance to get goals from there.
But in open play I think it is good for him to just be free and make the most of his great technical ability.
Brad Guzan is one of the few remaining players from my time at the club and he has come a long way with his development.
It says everything about Brad's quality that he is now the first choice goalkeeper and Shay Given is on the bench.
I remember Brad being a great professional who worked extremely hard in training.
He is a nice guy and he accepted that Brad Friedel was the first choice when I was there, but he still always showed great motivation to train well.
It was good for him and the whole team that Aston Villa had a second keeper that was training well and wasn't sad or downbeat.
Brad deserves all the praise he has been getting and I am really happy to see him playing Premier League football now.
We need him to carry on doing well in the last eleven games but he needs help from the defence too.
You need positive people like him around the place at times like this - you cannot have people with their heads down who think in a negative way.
I don't know much about the two new signings Simon Dawkins and Yacouba Sylla.
But from what I've read, they are both hard-working players who can bring some strength to the squad.
Sylla in particular is unfamiliar with English football but it is a great challenge and a great test for him.
If I had to offer him any advice about adjusting to the Premier League it would be just go for it.
He has the chance to do well for Aston Villa in the Premier League - which is seen all over the world - and play at some great stadiums.
Just take it as a great challenge and be proud of the fact that you have the chance to play for Aston Villa.
I think that is very important for every player - to think about how lucky and how proud you should be to wear that Villa shirt.
I heard that the club are going to be celebrating Acorns Day at the Queens Park Rangers game this month.
The partnership with Acorns Children's Hospice is something to be very proud of and that's why I was always willing to embrace it during my time at Villa.
I remember when the partnership began, it was unprecedented for a big football club to give away their shirt sponsorship to a cause like Acorns.
It was an amazing gesture and Randy Lerner deserves a lot of credit for that.
Going to the hospices makes you realise that there are people - especially young children - that have a hard time and that life is not so easy all of the time.
You have to be happy for your own life and try and help others who don't have it as easy as you.
Now that I am a parent as well I can understand how difficult it must be for the moms and dads.
If you have a chance to help people that have a hard time then you should do it.
That's why I was always proud to take part in activities with Acorns.
It made you realise how lucky you are to play football for a club like Villa and just in general to be well in life.
Snap up match tickets for Man City clash.
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