By Paul Brown
Eric Lichaj admits he's feeling "extra pressure" with Joe Bennett breathing down his neck - but says that's spurring him on to even better performances.
Lichaj is currently first-choice left-back after solid performances against Newcastle and Swansea.
Former England U21 ace Bennett was snapped up from Middlesbrough after impressive displays on Riverside alerted manager Paul Lambert.
However, Lambert stuck with Lichaj for Swansea - and the USA international is keen to retain that position in the team.
He says Bennett is pushing him all the way but insists he's enjoying the competition.
He said: "I feel extra pressure because obviously I'm not a natural left-back but I'm playing in that position now.
"I need to do as well as I can and hopefully I can keep that spot. Right now I'm having a good spell so I'm happy with that and hopefully I can keep it going.
"In any team there's always competition for places and if there wasn't then I probably wouldn't be as good or playing as well as I have been.
"Right now I've just got to keep it going for the team and for myself.
"Everyone is looking to get a place in the starting XI and in every position there is a place up for grabs with maybe two or three guys in each position.
"So you have to be on your 'A' game no matter what, in matches and in training."
Lichaj says it's a delight playing behind Barry Bannan, who's showing he has graft as well as craft.
He continued: "If someone's inside all I after to say is 'right shoulder' and he'll hear me and he understands what I'm saying.
"If he says something I understand him. It was like in one on one situations on the weekend with Nathan Dyer. He would always have my back, in different situations.
"It's good to have him there and I'm glad that he's playing there.
"I'm pretty sure I read that on the stats Barry was the one that ran the most against Swansea out of our whole team.
"People maybe don't see that, but the players do and we appreciate it. There's no place for hiding basically, we have to do that to stay in the team."
Lichaj says confidence in camp is high after the Swansea win.
He added: "We needed a result at our home pitch so it's good to get it and I'm glad that we did.
"The fans were all buzzing, the manager was in a good mood and the players were in a good mood.
"That's basically how it is after a win. No-one likes losing and no one likes drawing either because you don't get the winning feeling, so winning is always best and I like it a lot as well."
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