Roy Hodgson believes Aston Villa are capable of repeating their top-six finish this season, despite their shaky start.

Hodgson, who takes his Fulham side to Villa Park tomorrow, says Villa’s supporters were too quick to jeer off their players when they slumped to a surprise 2-0 defeat by Wigan on the opening day of the season.

Villa, who lost star midfielder Gareth Barry to Manchester City this summer, were also dumped out of the Europa League by Rapid Vienna on Thursday.

Those defeats have cast doubts as to whether Martin O’Neill’s team can match their achievements of last season.

But Hodgson, who managed to steer Fulham into the group stages of the Europa League, says Villa will again prove tough opponents to beat.

He said: “Aston Villa lost the first game and that’s always a blow and then they went to Vienna where they lost. When that happens you find yourself in a semi-crisis.

“But I watched their performance against Liverpool on the television and thought they were outstanding. They worked hard as a team and took their chances and were good winners of that match.

“I believed they were unlucky on Thursday night, but they seem to be arriving at their best form.

“They are a team who everyone believes will finish in the top-half of the table and might even challenge the top four.

“Booing managers is just something we have learned from the French. You can win 17 games in a row in France, but if you lose the 18th one, you get booed off.

“There was a time when that never happened here, I guess we have just got more continental.

“I am sure Martin is pleased with the squad he has got and I am sure this will be one of our tougher away games this season.”

Fulham’s players are still recovering from a gruelling 4,400 mile round trip from taking on Russian side Amkar Perm.

And Hodgson is unsure whether the jet-lag will kick-in on the trip up to Birmingham. He added: “I don’t know how many players will be fit for Sunday and secondly we have had a long five-hour flight to deal with.

“I think we have coped with the time difference in the best way by not changing our watches and staying on British time.

“But that’s not always easy when you are trying to sleep with the sun beating through the window.”

Having made it into the group stages of the Europa League, Hodgson knows the depth of his squad will be tested to the limit.

They have been drawn against Roma, Swiss side Basle and Bulgaria’s CSKA Sofia and Hodgson knows they face a struggle to cope with the congested fixture list. He said: “We know Roma and Basle will be the favourites to go through, but we have a chance to give a good account of ourselves. The priority for us will be still the Premier League.

“We have a big squad now and I will be looking for players to step up when asked to and that could be in the Europa League.”