Mirror: Perhaps it was the home defeat to Southampton that left Aston Villa in the relegation zone.Perhaps it was the embarrassing prospect of missing out on Wembley to League Two Bradford in the Capital One Cup semi-final.Perhaps it was the absence of any new signings as yet to save them from the drop.Perhaps it was the other results before they had kicked-off in the 2-2 draw against West Brom at the Hawthorns which underlined the seriousness of their plight. Perhaps it was the return of captain Ron Vlaar after two months out injured to shake up the side. But there appears to be a realisation among Villa's young squad that performances must improve immediately and the change was noticeable at Albion. Mercurial £10m attacking talent Charles N'Zogbia turned in arguably his best display for the club since joining 18 months ago from Wigan. Christian Benteke ended his mini-drought with a stunning finish from outside the box. And Gabby Agbonlahor turned back the clock by properly utilising his blistering pace to make it 2-0 to Villa before half-time. After the break a much-improved Albion hit back to deservedly take a point. But the visitors held on to climb out of the drop zone - despite losing Nathan Baker and Fabian Delph to injury - and Vlaar felt the display offered a solid platform to reach safety.
Sun: This was a magnificent, mean and moody Midlands derby — 124 years to the day since they first met in the Football League's debut season. Villa stormed into a two-goal first-half lead with goals from Christian Benteke and Gabby Agbonlahor. But Baggies battled back after the break and Chris Brunt and Peter Odemwingie struck to ensure honours were shared. Dropping into the relegation zone clearly focused Villa minds and underlined the grave peril they were in because Paul Lambert's side were unrecognisable from the feeble lot of recent weeks. Bright, aggressive and surprisingly confident, they swarmed all over the Baggies in a blistering start.
Independent: Unpleasant as conditions may be for training today, Aston Villa and Bradford City will both be keen to work on different aspects of the same phase of play ahead of tomorrow night's Capital One Cup semi-final second leg. In the first match at Valley Parade all three City goals in a stunning 3-1 victory were headers and, after conceding a late equaliser from a corner in Saturday's riveting 2-2 draw at West Bromwich Albion, Paul Lambert knows that his side have to tighten up. They were denied a first Premier League victory in six games when the otherwise impressive Christian Benteke left Gareth McAuley free to nod down a corner for Peter Odemwingie to volley in, leaving their manager exasperated. "It's a bog-standard ball in the box." he said. "It's not rocket science. We go man for man, and if it's your man that scores then we know who was to pick him up. It's you against your opponent, and you've got to go and put your head on it."
Daily Express: Paul Lambert says Aston Villa's defending is driving him potty, but Bradford's Phil Parkinson will look at it and see his route to Wembley. Bradford boss Parkinson said he targeted Villa's poor defending for the Capital One Cup semi-final first leg and it reaped big rewards with a 3-1 lead to take into tomorrow's second game. At The Hawthorns on Saturday, Villa were excellent in the first half. Christian Benteke, with a fine solo effort, and Gabby Agbonlahor had them two goals up in half an hour.But West Brom pummelled their way back into the game and when Chris Brunt scored with a 20-yarder it was just a matter of time until Villa caved in. When they did, it came from a corner. Again. All three Bradford goals came from corners, and this time Peter Odemwingie profited from the lack of organisation at the set piece to hit the equaliser. "It drives me potty," said Lambert. "We practise and practise and practise. You can never replicate that in a match. But they know their jobs. "It's not rocket science. You go man for man. If it's your man who scores then we know who was supposed to pick him up."
Daily Star: Aston Villa won't turn the corner in their fight for survival until they start learning to defend at corners. That was the message to Paul Lambert's kids from both their manager and skipper Ron Vlaar after yet another set-piece goal had cost them points. Villa have let in 19 goals from set-pieces this season in the PremierLeague, plus the one Bradford put past them in the first leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final. Lambert admitted it was driving him mad, to see points thrown away so cheaply. He said: "I'm not sure why it's happening, if it's a mental thing or not. It is just a bog-standard ball into the box.
Guardian: A springboard or a trapdoor? Aston Villa's next match could serve as one or the other. Paul Lambert knows that if his team overturn a 3-1 deficit when they host Bradford City in Tuesday's Capital One Cup semi-final second leg, then his young squad will enjoy a confidence infusion that could help them stay afloat in the Premier League. Suffering elimination at the hands of a struggling League Two team, on the other hand, would submerge Villa in further gloom. There is no possibility of a glorious failure to reach Wembley now. Only a comprehensive victory will atone for their shambolic showing at Bradford while increasing belief that this side have the wherewithal to survive a relegation fight. "We have to get there," Lambert said. Simple as that. This rambunctious derby with West Bromwich Albion was a useful preamble to the semi-final. It was played amid a frenetic atmosphere and, as is turned out, showcased a team's ability to come back from two goals down. Unfortunately for Lambert, it was West Brom who mounted the recovery as they reversed the 2-0 half-time score to salvage a point and stop their own run of defeats. Lambert was aghast at the manner in which his team conceded the goals, especially the second one, which, after Chris Brunt had halved Villa's lead, was scored by Peter Odemwingie after they failed to cope with a corner.
Sporting Life: Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert admits the number of goals his side are conceding from set pieces is driving him "potty". Villa's vulnerability at free-kicks and corners has been severely punished and is a key reason why they are locked in a Barclays Premier League relegation battle. It proved expensive again on Saturday as West Brom striker Peter Odemwingie scored a late equaliser in a 2-2 draw after Gareth McAuley had won the initial header from Chris Brunt's corner. Lambert said: "It does drive you mad. It's not rocket science. You go man for man. If it's your man who scores, then we know who was supposed to pick them up. If you're up against an opponent, you just have to make sure that you go and put your head on it."
Daily Telegraph: Charles N'Zogbia has been the most lavish signing in the last 18 months at Aston Villa and will arguably be the last as Randy Lerner reluctantly takes the club into a new era of austerity. Finances are now so tight that Paul Lambert has conceded he may not make a single new addition this month and will need to navigate a route to Premier League survival with his struggling squad. The pressure is now on players such as N'Zogbia to justify their substantial transfer fees and wages more than ever but at the Hawthorns there were signs that realisation is dawning for the French winger, a £9.5 million buy in 2011. The former Wigan player excelled in a free role and produced perhaps his finest performance for the club. Tellingly, Lambert withdrew him midway through the second half in a bid to protect him for the three crucial games Villa face in the next nine days. N'Zogbia will be crucial as Lambert prepares for a season-defining week, with the first challenge on Tuesday as they face Bradford in the second leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final.
Daily Mail: When will Aston Villa learn to defend set-pieces properly? As Villa's supporters trudged through the sludge away from The Hawthorns, they were asking themselves this achingly familiar question after yet more points were squandered. Last season, a staggering 25 goals were conceded from dead ball situations, comfortably the worst record in the Premier League. It was Villa's undoing under Alex McLeish. A frailty that almost sent them down. And it cost them another two precious points during a thrilling derby against the Baggies as Gareth McAuley rose to nod down for Peter Odemwingie to hook home a late equaliser. Moreover, the club risked embarrassment in the Capital One Cup by conceding three times from such a route against fourth tier Bradford City in the first leg of the semi-final. While the Bantams must be braced for a wicked backlash in the return at Villa Park tomorrow night, boss Phil Parkinson will be well aware that the Birmingham club's achilles heel was on show once more.
*The extracts on this page are taken from various newspapers and media outlets. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Aston Villa.