Villa will have to rely on youngsters

Gerard Houllier, the Aston Villa manager, has hailed the impact of the club's young players in helping to overcome an injury crisis.

Gerard Houllier, the Aston Villa manager, has hailed the impact of the club's young players in helping to overcome an injury crisis.

Villa are currently without 10 senior players ahead of today's clash at Ewood Park.

But the likes of Marc Albrighton and Barry Bannan, who signed a new three-and-a-half-year contract on Friday, have helped to cushion the blow.

Albrighton has impressed on the right flank while Bannan's passing ability in central midfield earned him his first Scotland cap against the Faroe Islands in midweek.

Houllier, the Frenchman who replaced Martin O'Neill, knows the duo have much to learn still but is excited about their potential.

He said: "I think we have got a good academy, with good people working behind the scenes. They produce good players, and maybe some of them started [to break through] before I came.

"But some players, because of injuries, have shown their face at the window and have taken their opportunities.

"That's fine and, when you are good enough, you are old enough.

"You need to take the tension of the young players and must not put pressure on them. But I am quite happy to see some young players coming through. We are in a learning process and it is good opportunity for them to show what they are capable of." Added Houllier: "With Marc Albrighton, he needs to improve his tactical knowledge and influence on the team.

"But I like his work rate, his attitude and also his bravery. He doesn't bottle out.

"He's got the level of the Premier League but he needs to step up. Maybe that means playing a bit more with his head and seeing the picture.

"A couple of times when we have counter-attacked he didn't see the other players and, when there is a cross coming from the left, he needs to be in the box. But he is a good prospect."

5.30pm, Abu Dhabi Sports 3

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