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Press article:

Solano in search of Euro ties - 26/10/2004

Solano in search of Euro ties
   Gareth Barry
   Darius Vassell
   Martin Laursen
   David O'Leary
   Aston Villa

Nolberto Solano was fortunate enough to play in Europe regularly during his five and a half seasons at Newcastle United and he hopes Aston Villa can provide a similar diet of cosmopolitan fixtures in the future.

Solano was cup-tied in the Carling Cup last season after playing for Newcastle in the competition before his £1.5 million move to Villa in January. He was unable to help Villa as they crashed out to Bolton Wanderers in the semi-finals.

Villa beat Wycombe Wanderers, Leicester City, Crystal Palace and Chelsea en route to the semi-finals where the defeat to Bolton was a desperately disappointing exit as a possible Uefa Cup spot appeared within Villa's grasp.

This season Villa have Solano at their disposal, however, and the Peruvian's excellent free kick helped David O'Leary's side progress into the third round at the expense of Queens Park Rangers last month.

Solano says Villa, who play at Burnley tonight for a fourth-round place, are taking the Carling Cup seriously as they believe their best chance of qualifying for Europe lies in this competition rather than the Premiership.

He said: "In the Carling Cup we know there is a guarantee that you play in the Uefa Cup next season if you win it - that's what the manager is looking for.

"Burnley is not an easy game but we want to win because it is a route to the Uefa Cup - as the manager is always saying - and we want to try to win this competition.

"It is only seven games in total but in the Premier League you have to play 38 games and finish in the top five if you want to go into Europe.

"Because it is only seven games to get into Europe it is easier to get there in the cup but we are looking at all the competitions. If we can push for that it will be fantastic for us - it is a big challenge."

With Villa's small squad stretched to breaking point due to long-term injuries to Gareth Barry, Martin Laursen and Darius Vassell, Solano acknowledges it will be hard for Villa to do well in the league and both cups.

But the midfielder says the prospect of getting into Europe gives Villa every incentive to succeed.

He added: "I knew before I moved here it would be tough because we have a small squad to get into Europe but the manager is building slowly and I am desperate to play in Europe.

"I want it for the club and the supporters; it is great to play away in Europe and we need to work very hard this season.

"To finish in the top four or five will be very, very tough for us but you never know in football. It is very difficult for the manager but he is working very well. I hope everyone else stays fit and we can try to finish in the top six and win the Carling Cup."

After failing to see eye to eye with his previous manager Sir Bobby Robson, Solano enjoys an excellent rapport with O'Leary.

Consequently, Solano is delighted O'Leary plans to extend his contract. "He [O'Leary] is very important for us," Solano said.

"He has done very well for this team and the club - especially with a small squad. We try to push forward and try to finish like we did last season when we came sixth, the team spirit is very good."

Solano's own spirits are high, too, after he scored his first Premiership goal of the season with a trademark free kick in Villa's 2-0 win against Fulham last week.

"It was an important win," he said. "Before the game we were thinking that we needed the three points and we worked hard.

"We didn't play well but, like the manager said, the win was the important thing. It was my first goal at home in the Premier League and it is very important for everyone to score - you can't expect the strikers to score all the time.

"You see players at Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea all chipping in. We need to score goals from all over the pitch, especially from the midfielders."

Championship side Burnley lost 2-0 at home to Derby County last Friday and have not won in four games. Solano said: "Maybe on paper it is better than playing a Premier League team but it is still difficult, especially when you play away."

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