Villa v Liverpool: Lambert - Tough run made us stronger
Paul Lambert believes his players will have got more out of the torrid time they experienced after Liverpool - rather than the win at Anfield itself.
Villa beat Liverpool 3-1 on Merseyside, in what must rate as the best result of the season for the claret and blue troops.
While Lambert was thrilled with the performance and panache of his side in that encounter, he thinks the mental strength his players gained from the barren spell after that match has toughened them up for the final run-in.
Villa lost five and drew two of the next seven league games and also went out in the Capital One Cup to Bradford and the FA Cup to Millwall.
Lambert thinks his team have come a long, long way since then.
He said: "It's not something you want to go through. But in a roundabout way, if we survive this season, it might be a blessing because you've been through really tough times at various points in the season.
"In football you have to be so thick-skinned and take a lot of stuff that flies your way, good or bad. It will make you stronger, that's for sure.
"That day at Liverpool we were excellent but then we went on a run where we couldn't do anything right, even though the effort was there.
"It makes you stronger when you come through those sort of periods of getting beat and beat and beat.
"The lads have kept on going. They are handling the pressure of it. It's not new for them. They know exactly what they've got to try and do.
"When you start to win games, you start to pull other people into it who maybe feel a bit edgy over it. The fact the lads are not wilting under everything is great."
Lambert has spoken on numerous occasions of the need to stay upbeat and positive even in the darkest of days.
That's certainly the case at Bodymoor Heath with any visitor witnessing training from afar seeing the buoyancy and enthusiasm of the players - and also the intensity of the sessions.
But Lambert has spotted the same trait in the Villa Park crowd this season.
He accepts frustration has crept in at times, as the supporters trudge off emotionally drained from a defeat.
But they have never turned on him or his players.
He appreciates that and believes it's a definite indication that the fans see his work as a long-term project, which will ultimately make Villa stronger in the future.
He continued: "The biggest barometer you can go by is the crowd.
"I've never sensed the crowd being down. Yes, they get frustrated but they've come in their thousands to watch us and the support for us has been huge.
"Yes they will be buoyed by what we have done in the last few weeks but I've never sensed the crowd being down.
"And as much as we need them on our side too, we have to give them something as well. They are two important components.
"It will be a fantastic atmosphere on Sunday as it has been for most of the year. It was rocking against QPR. I thought it was great at Reading.
"We need them again on Sunday. The game is virtually sold out so they are right with us.
"But the fans recognise what's happening here. They can see what is happening.
"You can't ask anymore from the crowd. They have given us everything. We'd like to think we've given them something the last few weeks as well.
"We need us all to bounce off each other and if we keep that level up, then the crowd will be right behind us again."
Now, six months after that famous win up north, it's Liverpool again on Sunday in home surroundings.
Lambert admires the Reds kudos and also the work being done by Brendan Rodgers to get them fighting in the upper echelons of the top-flight as they did throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s.
He knows it will be a tough encounter, especially with Luis Suarez in their ranks.
He added: "If you mention Liverpool anywhere in the world, everyone knows it, due to the players who have been there, managers, the history.
"The pressure is always on them because of what's happened in the past.
"Brendan has gone in and changed little things. He's a top manager.
"They have got Luis Suarez. You can't argue with the way he plays the game. That's his make-up. You can't curtail that. That's in him. I don't think you can change him.
"He must be in the running with Robin Van Persie and Gareth Bale for the PFA player award. Those three lads, one of them will win it. Suarez is a top player, outstanding.
"But they've got world class players there. You can't say Suarez is Liverpool. Steven Gerrard is there, Jamie Carragher is there. There are guys who have won the European Cup.
"But my job is to try and win on Sunday. In the last few weeks we've been playing really well and you take that into the game. We are playing well and we will try to win."
Villa v Liverpool
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AVTV DON'T MISS
Darren Bent is back in contention for the big Easter Sunday clash with Liverpool.
Bent has recovered from a foot injury and a flu bug and trained after missing the Reading and QPR games.
Karim El Ahmadi is also available after missing the QPR clash with an ankle issue.
Nathan Baker had to come off in the 3-2 win over Harry Redknapp's side due to concussion but the brave centre-half is going to be fine for Sunday.
Fabian Delph missed the Reading and QPR games through suspension but he will give Paul Lambert a boost by making himself available.
Clark injured his shoulder in the latter stages of Republic of Ireland's clash with Austria while Holman is nursing a hamstring problem.
Both internationals will face late fitness tests as Lambert waits nervously over their availability.
GENTING BETTING GUIDE
Villa to win - 7/2
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Villa will be wearing their traditional home kit of claret and blue.
Villa are looking to complete a league double over Liverpool for the first time since the inaugural Premier League season of 1992-93.
If successful, Villa will become the third club to do the double over Liverpool this season, after West Brom and Manchester United.
Liverpool have beaten Villa only once in their last four league encounters, a 2-0 away win in December 2011.
Villa have won three of their last five league matches. Prior to this they had won only four of their opening twenty-five games.
Christian Benteke is four goals away from equalling Dwight Yorke's record Premier League tally of seventeen for the club in a single season.
Ciaran Clark - 328 - has made more defensive clearances than any other Premier League player.