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Villa´s Barry focuses on derby clash despite transfer talk

SoccerNews in English Premier League 20 Apr 2008

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Gareth Barry could be taking part in his final Birmingham derby for Aston Villa on Sunday after admitting that he could be ready to leave the club he has served for ten years for pastures new this summer.

England international Barry has been the subject of growing interest from Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez, with the Spaniard ready to pay 12 million pounds (24 million dollars) to land the Villa Park player at the end of the season.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is the driving force behind trying to persuade Barry to move this summer and Champions League rivals Chelsea are also firm admirers of the 27-year-old, who is now becoming an established international in Fabio Capello's squad.

Barry has two years left on his 47,000pounds-a-week deal, but is desperate to experience Champions League football and said: “Every footballer wants to play at the highest level and anyone who says different shouldn't really be in the game or is lying.

“I am 27 and the next two or three years are hopefully going to be the peak of my career and it is a selfish sort of situation. I have been paid well for the last 10 years and anything I do now will be the right thing for my career.

“I want a chance to play Champions League football at some stage.”

Villa manager Martin O'Neill plans to offer Barry a new bumper contract to keep him but that might not be enough.

“As captain I want to know where the club is heading and what we are looking to achieve next year,” he added.

O'Neill admitted: “It is quite natural for someone who is in the England set-up to be a possible transfer target. But I desperately want to keep Gareth.”

Alex McLeish believes that his relegation-threatened Birmingham City players will have to give the performance of their season at Villa Park on Sunday if they are to avoid becoming the latest team crushed by ruthless Aston Villa.

Martin O'Neills in-form side have crushed Bolton Wanderers 4-0 and Derby County 6-0 in their last two games as they try to overhaul Everton for a fifth-place finish in the Premier League and a place in the UEFA Cup next season.

Birmingham's plight at the other end of the table could be far worse come Sunday lunchtime if rivals Bolton, Reading and Fulham can collect points from their fixtures and McLeish knows there is no room for any regrets after the derby fixture, with games running out.

“People are expecting us to lose, make no mistake about that, but the only thing I'm concerned about is us and our players. They have to go into the game with utter belief in themselves,” said McLeish.

“Villa have completely destroyed the last two teams they have played against. We've got to make sure they don't destroy us and everybody has to roll their sleeves up, keep their concentration and to give as good a performance as they have all season.

“The players have got to make sure they don't come off regretting a thing and that they have given the Birmingham fans everything.”

McLeish, who experienced the ferocity of Old Firm derbies, during his spell in charge of Glasgow Rangers, knows that the intensity has to be maintained for the remaining games of the season and is hoping that James McFadden and Sebastien Larsson will both recover from knee injuries in time to figure in the crucial game.

But Birmingham will have to do without influential captain Damien Johnson, who is serving the second game of a three-match suspension and central defender Martin Taylor is sidelined with a groin injury.

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