Belfast Telegraph

Clark hands Villa a boost

Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish expects Ciaran Clark to be fit for Saturday's crucial Barclays Premier League encounter with Sunderland.

Clark's return after an eight-match absence with a knee injury was cut short at Manchester United on Sunday. Although the 22-year-old elected to continue after sustaining a nasty head wound in a collision with Patrice Evra, it soon became obvious Clark was too groggy to go on.

However, McLeish does not believe the Republic of Ireland international suffered any concussion, and said: "Ciaran took a head knock but I don't believe there was concussion. He has had stitches but he should be okay. Hopefully he is able to train this week and we will try to sharpen him up."

Out of form and ravaged by injury, few expected Villa to return from Old Trafford with any points to assist in their quest for Premier League survival.

Defeats over the weekend for Blackburn and QPR mean the midlands club still have a healthy six-point buffer between themselves and the drop zone.

However, a home encounter with third-bottom Bolton and a trip to West Brom follow immediately after the Sunderland game and McLeish is demanding a winning run to end any lingering fears about a financially crippling collapse into the npower Championship.

"We have three cup finals coming up so the players have to stop feeling sorry for themselves and start recovering immediately," said McLeish, who received more backing from his old mentor Sir Alex Ferguson.

"The plan is to secure our Premier League status and move forward from that.

"We have to improve. The last two seasons have not been good enough for Aston Villa's name in this game."

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