Barclays Premier League
By Paul Brown
Alex McLeish has ordered his defenders "not to switch off for a second" as they face Stoke this evening.
McLeish is more than aware of the challenge facing his claret and blue troops tonight as they come up against one of the physically-demanding sides in the Barclays Premier League.
McLeish is confident Villa can collect all three points from the Boxing Day contest and insists "confidence will soar" if they manage to do that.
He said: "It is a big challenge and a tough place to go but it's one we can win.
"If we do the confidence would soar through the roof but the players have to take up the challenge at set-pieces and concentrate from start to finish.
"It's something we are working hard on and the things that can help are concentration, doing your job in the box and making sure opponents don't get a march on you and turn it into a 60-40 as opposed to a 50-50.
"They are tough to play against but they are not unbeatable. You have to go toe to toe and head to head with them and not switch off for the entire game because they can grind you down.
"Switch off for a second at a set-piece and you can be dead.
"We've got to give them problems of our own in terms of getting forward and making chances and creating opportunities."
McLeish also hailed the job done by opposite number Tony Pulis, who has established Stoke as a impressive Barclays Premier League side.
He added: "Tony has built a great team and it just shows you what can happen when a manager gets a bit of time to stabilise a club.
"When they came up to the Barclays Premier League, the important thing for Stoke was to get a footing in the league, stay up the first couple of seasons, grow financially and if you look at Tony's bench, it is quite frightening. That is a measure of how he has done."
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