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Press article:

Solano - Angel is Villa's Shearer - 19/03/2004

Solano - Angel is Villa's Shearer
Angel - as important as Shearer
   Juan Pablo Angel
   Alan Shearer
   Dwight Yorke
   Aston Villa
   Newcastle United
   Blackburn Rovers
   Charlton Athletic

Aston Villa duo Nolberto Solano and Juan Pablo Angel are expected to be on opposing teams when Peru and Colombia meet in a World Cup qualifier next month.

It is not a meeting Solano is eagerly looking forward to given Angel's recent form in front of goal, but it has made the Peruvian appreciative of playing alongside Angel for Villa.

Solano, who joined Villa for £1.5 million from Newcastle in January, laid on another goal for Angel in David O'Leary's side's 4-0 victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers last Sunday.

Angel's brace at Molineux takes his tally of Premiership goals to 13 - he has 20 in all competitions - and he looks well capable of beating Dwight Yorke's feat from 1996-1997 when he scored 17 league goals and three times in cup competitions.

Solano says that is good news both for Angel and Villa, who are still only three points off the fourth Champions League spot and could well qualify for the Uefa Cup, despite slipping to eighth place in the Premiership table after Liverpool's victory last night.

The 29-year-old said: "Juan's like an Alan Shearer for Newcastle, a Thierry Henry for Arsenal or a Ruud Van Nistelrooy for Manchester United.

"Juan is the top goal scorer for us and a very important player. He is hungry to score every week and that's fantastic.

"I always look to see who is in a good position and Juan will be there because he is a striker.

"He makes good movement and if I can find him with a pass then I will always try. The rest of the team will try to help him as well.

"We are doing well and are not far away from the Champions League places. With Newcastle and Liverpool around us, we are not favourites, but we will see what happens.

"Even if we don't come fourth we need to try and finish in the top eight and get in the Uefa Cup.

"That would be great because we have a small squad with some young players, but the manager is building for the future."

The chance to work with Angel was a big draw for Solano when he weighed up whether to sign for Villa.

The pair, who have played against each other in Argentina regularly in the past for River Plate and Boca Juniors, have since become firm friends.

Their friendship will be forgotten on March 31 though when Solano and the Colombian international line-up for their respective countries in Peru.

Solano said: "We don't talk about the game because we have to concentrate on Aston Villa.

"But Juan is a great player. I've been talking to some of my mates from the national team and said we must watch him because he is a good player.

"It is an important game for Peru because we have not been in a World Cup finals since 1982 and it has always been my dream of playing in the World Cup one day."

Angel and Solano have not yet officially been called up by their countries for the game but, injuries aside, they are almost certain to play.

However, with Villa facing Charlton at The Valley four days before the qualifier there has been speculation that the influential pair might miss the Premiership game.

But Solano is confident an agreement can be reached to allow Angel and himself to fly out to Peru after the Charlton game on March 27.

In the meantime, Solano is focusing on the visit of 16thplaced Blackburn Rovers to Villa Park on Saturday.

He said: "Blackburn are not in a good position - they are not far away from the relegation places.

"We are doing quite well and we will want to win. We have a good team and we need the three points because we are not far away from challenging for Europe."

Solano also said he was beginning to enjoy playing at Villa Park and believes he has struck up a rapport with supporters.

He said: "The fans make it exciting, especially when we have a good result at home. I try to play for the team and for the fans, they seem to like me and that's important."

Birmingham Evening Post

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