Villa visit fires Clarke

Steve Clarke has said he has no doubt the club will return to winning ways soon and described Wednesday night's visit of Aston Villa as a "terrific chance".

Focusing on the positives of recent weeks, including two 2-2- draws, albeit in differing circumstances, at home to Arsenal and away to Sunderland, Clarke believed the positive signs were there for all to see. He also confirmed that Valon Behrami should be fit for selection while Scott Parker is likely to be the only change in the 18 as a replacement for the suspended Radoslav Kovac.

"We are going to win matches, I promise you. I really mean that," Clarke said. "It is important to win quickly, it is not imperative because we still have 28 matches to play for I think that is 84 points. It is a lot of points. There is a long way to go.

"It is important that we get a win sooner rather than later so obviously Wednesday night is a terrific chance for us. Recent performances have been up and down. A lot of good as well as some things that are not so good.

"We are optimistic and we are positive. It will be a terrific game. Aston Villa are in a good run of form and we know they have possibilities at the top end of the table so we look forward to it."

Clarke admitted to concern at not being able to convert winning positions such as in that draw at the Stadium of Light at the weekend or the visit of Fulham last month. He said confidence played a part  

"We are lacking the finishing touch to turn a difficult game into a win. That is what we are missing just now. We need to do that. How we do it will be determined by the circumstances of a particular match but it will happen.

"If you are in front and you can't see the game out it is very disappointing. Sunderland is a game we should have got three points from. We didn't, we have to take that on the chin.

"The previous week we had done fantastically to come back from a two-nil deficit [against Arsenal]. There are good things and bad things and they are all mixed in together just now. What we need is to put all the good things together and get the win we need."

He also voiced his support for Herita Ilunga, who took criticism from some quarters for his fall upon being pushed over by Sunderland's Kenwyne Jones on Saturday. "I find it incredible that the player who was the victim is the person that everybody is talking about. You have to correct me, tell me what Ilunga did wrong?

"Someone pushed him in the face. He has just recently recovered from a triple fracture to the jaw … if people are going to have a go at our players then I am going to have a go back."