England stars' battle to impress Fabio Capello could fire Aston Villa into Champions League, claims Martin O'Neill

By Sportsmail Reporter

Martin O'Neill believes the fight for World Cup spots with England could inspire his Aston Villa players to Champions League qualification this season.

Villa stars Stephen Warnock, Ashley Young, James Milner, Emile Heskey, Stewart Downing, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Curtis Davies are all hoping to go to South Africa next summer and are looking to impress Fabio Capello.

And O'Neill says it is the prospect of a place at the World Cup that has fired Villa to fifth place in the Premier League so far, and could propel them into the top four come May.

Graham Alexander of Burnley and Gabriel Agbonlahor of Aston Villa

In the hunt: Gabriel Agbonlahor (right) could make England's World Cup squad

The Villa boss said: 'The carrot of going with England to the World Cup and being part of that squad is very strong, very strong indeed.

'Each of the players we have here, who have had a chance, have stated a reasonable claim for inclusion. I still think there is time and club performances will play a part.

'The next international match is in March so that's at least three months and is really big for the players. It is a good time now, with no internationals and they can concentrate on club football.'

Brazilian player Kaka (right) and  England's James Milner

Front runner: James Milner (left) has impressed for England in recent matches

O'Neill also extended an open invitation to Capello to visit Villa;s training ground to see his England hopefuls in action.

He said: 'I don't know whether it's in his nature to visit training grounds but he is welcome here any time at all. In fact it would be a great boost to us for him to take time out and come here.

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