Villa v Reading match preview: Spirit of lionhearted Laursen required
There will be a man up in the Sky Sports studio tonight who epitomises the qualities Villa require against Reading.
Former captain Martin Laursen won some bruising battles during in his five years in claret and blue.
The defensive colossus knows what it is like to taste victory over the Royals too, having scored a header in a 3-1 win against them in January 2008.
Paul Lambert's men could do worse than conjure up the spirit of lionhearted Laursen this evening.
It is still a bit too early for panic to set in regarding league positions.
But the encounter with Brian McDermott's team will be a test of character and steel - two characteristics Laursen was renowned for.
After three tricky assignments against the Barclays Premier League's elite, the pressure is on Villa to be the aggressors against the team who sit directly below them in the table.
Lambert's Lions raised their game magnificently against Manchester United and Arsenal - and to an extent in the first half of the defeat at Manchester City.
The challenge Lambert will lay down to his troops is can they hit those heights again in the heat of a battle against Reading side who are on the up following a difficult start?
"That's the capability you can hit - the secret is sustaining that," he said.
"Can you can sustain that level of performance?
"You want to hit the heights every time. If you do that then you'll win more games than not."
However, Lambert doesn't subscribe to the theory that tonight's game is more pivotal to Villa's season than the Arsenal clash.
It was put to the gaffer that taking three points off a rival at the lower end of the top flight would be more profitable.
But Lambert's team will prepare for the Royals in the same manner as they would for one the league's elite.
The difficult of facing a newly-promoted team isn't lost on the Scotsman either - especially after his side suffered defeats at West Ham and Southampton earlier this term.
"All games are really, really hard in this league," added Lambert.
"I don't think you can put games in different categories.
"Every single one is really and you can never look two or three games ahead.
"It will be new for some of the players who maybe haven't been here before.
"It will give them a lift coming here but we are at home and we are certainly playing well."
Reading boss McDermott was quick to acknowledge Villa's spirit and endeavour in his pre-match press conference.
"They've got a promising young side now with a real threat upfront with Benteke and Weimann," he said.
"I watched them against Arsenal and they fully deserved a point - they possibly could have won it.
"They look like they've got a great spirit about them - they've got a great manager there - I know him well, he's a good guy."
Villa v Reading
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AVTV DON'T MISS
Reading preview - watch now
Paul Lambert is sweating on the fitness of skipper Ron Vlaar ahead of tonight's clash.
The Dutch central defender picked up a calf strain during Saturday's clash against Arsenal and came off early in the second-half.
Chris Herd and Nathan Baker are hoping to return soon but Charles N'Zogbia [knee], Joe Bennett [leg], Richard Dunne [groin] and Gary Gardner [cruciate ligament] are still missing.
Reading winger Jimmy Kebe is ruled out with a groin problem.
Villa will be wearing their traditional home kit of claret and blue.
LAST TIME OUT
Villa 3-1 Reading
Villa have won seven of their eight league meetings against Reading
Former Villa midfielder Steve Sidwell gave Reading their only league victory the boys in claret and blue with two goals in 2-0 win in February 2007.
Villa are unbeaten at home against Reading in all competitions, registering eight successive wins since a 1-1 draw in the inaugural meeting between these sides in 1912.
There has been a 90th-minute goal in the last four games between these clubs in all competitions.
The Royals suffered their first defeat in five league matches at Wigan on Saturday.
Brian McDermott's side have conceded more goals in the final 30 minutes of matches than any other top-flight team this season .
GENTING BETTING GUIDE
Villa to win - 10/11
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Don't forget, if you win your bet, cash payment is available after the game from the North Stand payout office, which is open an hour after the game finishes.
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Good luck and let's hope for a great result!
FIFA 13 GAMING HUB
The EA SPORTS special FIFA 13 gaming hub is travelling the length and breadth of the country visiting various clubs on matchdays this season - and Villa's turn arrives this evening.
The giant game arena named 'The Dugout' will be at Villa Park's Trinity Road thtonight so fans can test out the new game.
'The Dugout' is an award-winning, state-of-the-art exhibition trailer from EA SPORTS - our official football action game partner - that allows visitors to trial the latest video games on High-Definition (HD) technology.
It has five individual gaming stations - including dugout-style seating - that can be used to play PS3 and Xbox, as well as two iPad stations.
And it will give you, the fans, the chance to play pre-match, test out your skills and then pop along to the big match at 8pm as Villa face Reading.
You can get in the mood for matchday by beating your team's opponent, predicting the results of other games too.