Martin O'Neill has admitted that Aston Villa's upcoming games are likely to define how successful their season is.
The Midlands club take on fellow Premier League top-four hopefuls Liverpool and Arsenal in the near future as well as well as Blackburn Rovers in the semi-finals of the Carling Cup.
Villa were riding high in the league table at a similar stage last season before a loss of form saw them miss out on Champions League qualification.
"When we beat Blackburn in February last season, we'd got to 51 points from 25 games and that was fantastic. We've got a bit of a distance to go to get there," reflected O'Neill.
"But the games we've got coming up between now and the new year are big matches plus a couple of semi-final legs to look forward to in January.
"These games will give us a pointer to what the second half of the season holds.
"I'm not so sure this season is mirroring last season in the sense of we won seven successive away games, which by any stretch of the imagination is fantastic, and to emulate that this season would be very difficult.
"But we knew we could try and improve our home record and so far – and I stress so far – it is better than last season.
"I am hoping the players have got that inner belief. It is one of those things where it is hard to gain and easy to lose but there is good confidence about them because of the way they are performing.
"They are performing individually very well and collectively not bad."