Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill admits losing skipper Martin Laursen to injury has been critical this season.
O'Neill said: "We have missed Martin greatly. We have won matches without him this season but his overall contribution and absence has been a big loss.
"We have conceded 26 goals in 12 games but had only conceded three in the previous eight games when Martin hadn't played.
"But the overall picture is that we have missed him. We have missed his presence, his ability to score some goals for us, and he was as brave as a lion.
"His overall presence is what we have missed. He goes for everything. He has got a big heart.
"The ironic thing is he has had no problems with the other knee which is the one that gave him the problems throughout the last few years.
"He looks after himself brilliantly and, after the West Ham game in December, if you had said he would only play one more league game (against West Brom) I would have been really surprised."