Stoke v Villa preview: Lambert - We need strong hearts and minds
Paul Lambert wants strong hearts and strong minds as he leads his team into a final seven-game flurry, starting at Stoke.
Lambert is confident his players have both attributes as they head into the match at the Britannia Stadium.
He has watched his side, over the past few weeks, cope resolutely from a mental perspective with their low-level position in the Barclays Premier League, winning two of the last three games.
But they have also shown bravery in the manner of their performances, always looking to play the game in an attractive, attacking manner and never falling into a long-ball strategy.
Lambert wants his players to keep believing - and hold their nerve.
He said: "When you look at the table, only four points separate us from the twelfth team. That's nothing. It's a game away.
"Everybody has to play some really hard fixtures. It's how you hold your nerve.
"We try to keep the place upbeat in the way it is. But we don't like a team that is playing with nerves.
"You have to have a good form of mental strength in this situation. You have to have a strong mentality where the pressure doesn't get to you and you see it through. If you do that, that's half the battle.
"I think it's both mental and physical attributes needed. You have to match the physical prowess with keeping a level head.
"They have to do that, continue to play their football and try to create. We have goals in us, we know that but we know we have to defend too.
"But when the lads get asked questions, they come up with answers especially against QPR and Reading over the past few weeks. They know what it is like, the magnitude of the games.
"We have been down there most of the year so it's not new to us. It might be new to one or two who get dragged into it. That's where the pressure comes.
"The thing for me is that they are confident in having the ball. It is not as if they are frightened by it and just want to launch the ball up the field. It is not the way to play. I think they are playing with a bit of freedom.
"We've been turned over in certain games, like we were at Chelsea, but over the course of it I knew they wouldn't buckle going to big grounds and crowds and things like that.
"I just have a belief that they will go and compete with teams."
Lambert stressed that bravery will be a big thing at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday, as they face the physically-domineering Stoke.
He'd like a repeat of the valiant, bold performance his side put in against the Potters earlier in the season on home soil.
He added: "We know what kind of game it is going to be.
"Stoke have had a bit of a hard run of it of late aswell. I am sure Tony would like more points than he has got but we are only four points behind them. That's the reality of it.
"You know you are going to have to physically match them. You know the ball is going to come into your box and the tempo they play, you are going to have to match that.
"But we did it here during the season when we competed really well against them and we are going to have to do exactly the same this weekend.
"I thought we played decent that day earlier this season and had a lot of the ball.
"Everybody knows Stoke are a threat at set plays. You know it's going to come into your box and you have to deal with that and we did that that day. We're going to have to do that again.
"You have to match them. But we have to play our own game. It is important we play our own game."
Stoke v Villa
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Holman missed the Liverpool game with a hamstring problem while the Reds clash came just too soon for Bent, who had been struggling with an ankle injury and a virus.
But both are firmly in the frame for the Britannia Stadium encounter.
Andreas Weimann, who limped off against Liverpool, has returned to training.
However, Ciaran Clark is a doubt.
The centre-half picked up a shoulder injury in the international clash with Austria when he was away with Republic of Ireland and subsequently missed the Reds clash.
Lambert also revealed that there is still no light at the end of the tunnel for Richard Dunne, who has thus far missed the entire campaign.
Villa will be wearing their away kit of lime green.
Villa have won three of their last six league matches, having previously only managed four victories in their opening twenty-five games.
Gabby Agbonlahor needs just one to equal Dwight Yorke's record of 60 for the club in the Barclays Premier League.
Christian Benteke has scored nine goals in his last eleven Barclays Premier League appearances.
Stoke have the worst goalscoring record in the Barclays Premier League, with twenty-seven goals from thirty-one games.
Stoke have only earned five points in 2013, fewer than any other team in the Barclays Premier League.
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