Lambert hopes Villa handle pressure
Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert knows the buck stops with him as he tries to see out a difficult season by at least preserving the club's Barclays Premier League status in a "cup final" against Hull on Saturday.
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The Scot is well aware his struggling side can effectively secure their place in the top flight by improving their woeful home record against the Tigers at Villa Park.
With two matches remaining away to Manchester City and Tottenham after Hull's visit this weekend, the pressure is on Villa to do the business against Steve Bruce's side.
And while Hull have an actual FA Cup final on their minds, Lambert admits this league scrap is one of the most important matches in his players' careers.
"If we win then it virtually gets us out of the relegation battle," he said.
"That's how big the game is. Everybody knows it. I said the other day that this is like a cup final and we're at home, with the backing of 38,000 people. That will have to drive us on as well and if the lads perform against a good side who have had a really good season then we'll do it.
"The ironic thing is that if we win, we can go above Hull."
Experienced striker Gabriel Agbonlahor labelled the match one of the biggest of the players' lives and Lambert can appreciate his forward's sentiment.
"It's pressure and you deal with it," he said.
"Gabby is saying that because they're still young. When they're 29, 30 years of age, hopefully if their careers keep going they'll have massive games to play in.
"I understand what Gabby is saying about it being a cup final, and that is how we have to treat it. You have to give it everything you've got and if you win then it puts everything out of the road."
Lambert and his players bore the fans' frustrations after last week's 4-1 loss at Swansea but the manager hopes they can put those emotions to one side for the good of the team.
"The fans will be there, they'll come in their thousands to watch us and they will get behind us," he said.
"That's important because the lads will need that backing from them. I've no doubt that's what they'll do.
"You've got to take criticism on your shoulders. It's not nice but if you're not winning and you're not doing well, there's only one thing that's going to come.
"That's what happens and you just have to try and get through it. As long as it stays away from the players, that's the main thing."