Martin O’Neill has played down Aston Villa’s hopes of becoming record-breakers ahead of Saturday’s Premiership match with Fulham.

Villa are the only remaining unbeaten side in the top flight after Everton’s defeat against Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium last weekend.

They have not tasted defeat in eight games and are only four short of the club’s best start ever to a campaign, which came in 1998-99 under John Gregory.

But O’Neill is mindful of the fact Villa face difficult trips to Liverpool and Everton in addition to home meetings with Chris Coleman’s side and Blackburn in the next month.

O’Neill said: “I think it will be pretty difficult myself to beat the record because we have some hefty fixtures coming up.

“We start with Fulham, then go to Liverpool and there will be more testing games after that. I think we will be hard pressed to emulate that record of a few years back.

“I’m genuinely pleased to be the only unbeaten team in the Premiership still. How long that will last? I don’t know. But I wouldn’t be shouting fantastic odds about beating the record.”

O’Neill has to decide on who will be Villa’s penalty-taker after Juan Pablo Angel missed from the spot against Tottenham last weekend.

The Colombian may still be handed the responsibility but he has a poor penalty record and new skipper Gareth Barry would be the obvious candidate to take over.

O’Neill said: “First of all you have to get a penalty so there is no point in myself making a big statement about things at this moment.

“It is something we are considering. Juan Pablo has scored one, missed one and netted from the rebound from a third one.

“You have to look at the number of people who want to take penalties. At Nottingham Forest, John Robertson took the penalties and when he looked around to see if anybody else wanted to, most of us turned away.

“I haven’t made my mind up but we will decide before the game although it also depends who is on the pitch at the time if we get one.”

O’Neill used to watch Fulham on a regular basis during his 15-month absence from the game to look after his sick wife Geraldine.

He said: “I know their players quite well from seeing them a lot last season but that doesn’t mean we will win the game. I wish it was as easy as that.

“I saw them against Charlton last Monday and, like ourselves against Tottenham, they were a bit stodgy in the first half.

“But you felt at half-time Fulham would up their game and that is what happened in the second half when they showed renewed determination. It will be a tough game for us.”

Villa midfielder Gavin McCann is a major doubt for the game with a calf injury and he was unable to train on Friday.

McCann saw a specialist earlier in the week and O’Neill admits the injury could be related to that which forced him to be substituted in the Carling Cup tie with Scunthorpe.

O’Neill said: “Gavin has been fantastic for us, played a big part in our start to the season, and if he is out he will be a big miss for us.”

The Irishman admitted the possibility of offering new contracts to McCann and former skipper Olof Mellberg is not high on the agenda at present.

He said: “I’m no further forward with that. Next week we will be hard pressed with the midweek cup game with Leicester and then the Liverpool match but the situation with Gavin and Olof is at the back of my mind. I’m aware of it.”

First-choice goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen trained on Friday after missing the game with Spurs because of a severely bruised shoulder.

The Danish international looks set for a recall even though Stuart Taylor impressed against Martin Jol’s side.