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Lambert focused on present, not past

ESPN staff
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Paul Lambert feels his Villa side will have to play extremely well to overcome Liverpool © PA Photos
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Paul Lambert has told his buoyant Aston Villa squad to forget the euphoria of their pre-Christmas victory at Anfield when they square up to Liverpool in search of a slice of club history this weekend.

Goals of the highest quality gave Villa a 3-1 win against Sunday's visitors before the club's campaign suffered a downturn in form with successive hidings against Chelsea, Tottenham and Wigan.

But Lambert believes his side's recent run of form is much more relevant to the rematch than anything that happened three-and-a-half months ago.

"I don't know if you ever get a complete performance but, that day, we played very, very well," he said.

"You don't look too far ahead and think you're the finished article... it's a really dangerous game. You can never see the future and then we went on a run when we couldn't do anything right. Periods like that make you stronger when you're getting beat and beat. You just know it's in your abilities to win a game but sometimes you need a break to do so.

"The Anfield game has long gone, it's finished. It will have no bearing on what happens now. The fact we've won the last two games is something more to take into it than what we did at Liverpool. But, in the last few weeks, we've played really well. We're playing well enough to try and win it on Sunday.

"I want to try to win it. Someone has just told me it will be the first time since 2009-10 if we win three in a row. We're only four points from 11th [place]. One or two wins and you pull clubs back into it."

Lambert sees similarities between the Villa Park adversaries, with the accent on developing a younger side in the Second City while Brendan Rodgers is effecting a culture change on Merseyside.

But, whatever planning may be taking place for the future, he is expecting a tough return to action following the international break.

"We're going to have to play very well to win," he added. "They have some top players; world-class players. Not just [Luis] Suarez, but [Steven] Gerrard, [Jamie] Carragher... guys who have won European Cups and World Cups.

"Brendan has said it will take three or four years to get where he wants to get it. We're trying to build certain things as well. We want to try and change something and I think the crowd are right behind it. This game is virtually sold out.

"The place is pretty vibrant but we always try to keep it lively. I've never sensed the crowd down - and the support has been huge. Yes, they will be buoyed by what they have done in the last few weeks. Much as we want them on our side, we have to give them something as well. They are two important components.

"If we can keep that level up, the crowd will be right with us again. The lads have kept on going. They are handling the pressure of it and know what they can do. The fact they have not melted under it is amazing."

Lambert welcomed most of his international players back to training on Thursday and will monitor the fitness of defender Ciaran Clark, who came off for the Republic of Ireland because of a shoulder injury, and the condition of midfielder Brett Holman - troubled by a hamstring problem.

He is also mindful that young right-back Matt Lowton is close to a suspension but has made it clear he does not want the former Sheffield United player to in any way temper the competitive style that has seen his yellow-card count escalate.

"Matt started the season brilliantly, then had a little dip along with everyone else," the manager said. "In the last couple of months, he has been back to his best. He has been excellent.

"As for the bookings... that's the way he plays the game. You can't curtail it. I'd rather him make a challenge than not - and then he must take the consequences. We're young and sometimes our enthusiasm overrides things. If the ref waves the yellow card, you have to run with it."

Lambert has also further praised former Crewe midfielder Ashley Westwood, saying: "He has come through the leagues and has been absolutely fantastic. He never gives the ball away."

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