McLeish - Villa will avoid drop

We must focus, says Villa boss

Alex McLeish: Believes every week will be a battle but does not think Aston Villa will be relegated

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Aston Villa boss Alex McLeish is confident he will not suffer the misery of Premier League relegation for the second successive season.

McLeish went down as Birmingham boss last May after Wolves pushed them into the bottom three with just minutes remaining on the final day of the campaign.

Now his Villa side find themselves in a precarious position - only five points above the drop zone and with major injury problems ahead of Saturday's clash at Liverpool.

But McLeish is convinced he can avoid the ignominy of relegation this time around.

Asked about the prospect of back-to-back relegations, McLeish said: "I don't believe it will happen. That is my school of thought. I know the media will bring it up, that's fine, I can handle that.

"It will maybe be on the tip of everyone's tongue. It is not something I believe will happen.

"I'm sure the players will think about it as well, as they are only human. They were in a battle last season, so they've been through it, and they've got to do it again this season.

Battle

"Every week will be a battle but we are only three points off West Brom, and have a game in hand."

McLeish admits he was well aware this would be a difficult season for Villa as the club goes through a rebuilding process.

He said: "I never thought it was going to be easy this season. We have a lighter squad than Villa had this time last season.

"I knew from that point of view it was going to be a big challenge again.

"But I'm confident the players can rise to the challenge and make sure we are okay this season."

McLeish has revealed he is more determined than ever to show leadership given the events of recent weeks concerning Fabrice Muamba and Stiliyan Petrov.

Bolton midfielder Muamba, who played under McLeish at Birmingham, suffered a cardiac arrest last month but is recovering well, while Villa captain Petrov has been diagnosed with acute leukaemia.

"You have to show that you still have the focus, the passion, everything that goes with concentrating on the game itself," added the Scot.

Traumatic

"You get these traumatic times in life and you have to deal with them.

"You move forward and show leadership and get everybody playing to the best of their ability and believing in themselves."

McLeish has mixed injury news ahead of the trip to Anfield. Full-back Alan Hutton is poised to return but striker Andreas Weimann has emerged as a doubt.

He said: "I think Hutton is looking as if he is going to be available after his calf injury for the Easter games.

"But Weimann is a doubt because of the ankle injury he received last weekend against Chelsea."