Martin Laursen has urged his Aston Villa team-mates to "prove we are men and not boys" as they seek to ensure their season does not fizzle out.

Villa's chances of qualifying for Europe are now looking slim as they trail fifth-placed Everton by seven points with only eight games to go in the Premier League.

Laursen insists this weekend's home game with Sunderland is a must-win encounter.

"This is a test for us now - but that's what it is all about," he said.

"We have to prove that we are men and not boys. We have to prove we can stand tough when things are not going our way.

"When you are winning, everything is easy. When you have a few bad results you have to show your character - and that is what we will do. We are not giving up.

"We have a great opportunity now against Sunderland at home to bounce back and try to win the game. Sunderland are fighting for every point - but so are we.

"This is a great challenge. We have to forget about the Portsmouth result and try to learn from our mistakes. We have to think only about Sunderland now. We have to win."

Laursen concedes a successful late charge will be far from easy.

"There is a seven-point gap to fifth place, with eight games left," he said.

"We will still believe in what is possible and work hard to the very end. That's the least we can do, so nothing has changed for us.

"We are still very focused on trying to win matches and see if Everton can drop points - and then we will see where we are after those eight games.

"It was a big blow to see Manchester United and Chelsea go out of the FA Cup in terms of our European chances. That was a disappointment. When you are sixth, you would like to go directly into Europe.

"But it isn't to be, and now we must try and go for fifth. If not, we must try and finish sixth and perhaps go into Europe via the Intertoto Cup."