SCOTT PETERSON - Thursday, August 16, 2012
On the heels of a lengthy pre-season, which included trips to the US and Germany, Eric Lichaj is upbeat about the upcoming EPL campaign awaiting Aston Villa.

A disastrous 2011-2012 season, which nearly saw them drop down to the Championship, is not typically reason for optimism, but with head coach Paul Lambert able to mold his team the mood is upbeat.

"[Coach Lambert] has brought in a new mentality for everyone to be stronger, to work together and to work hard constantly the whole game. Everyone is looking out for everyone else. If someone loses a 1v1 battle, then someone else should fill in for them and do their job for them," said Lichaj after Villa's preseason friendly versus Werder Bremen.

Lambert and the Villa brass have brought in Australian striker Brett Holman, Dutch midfielder Karim El Ahmadi and Dutch defender Ron Vlaar to bolster a side that finished 16th in a 20 team league, two points above the drop zone.

But it has been the signing of 23 year old English defender Matthew Lowton from Sheffield United that has had the largest impact on Lichaj as the two are essentially vying for the same right back spot.

Although Lichaj could also be used on the left, as was seen last year, the Illinois native is not resting on his laurels and is thoroughly relishing the competition.

"[Lowton] is a good player and the competition [has been] tough, but it's just like any team. There is always new competition that comes in, and it always makes us better no matter who the head coach decides to put on the field."

Head coach Lambert has been coy about his plans, refusing to shed light on his plans for the season ahead of this weekend's opening EPL tilt.

If Lichaj gets the nod, though, he's certain of being ready to help Villa to a successful 2012-2013 season.

"Anyone could start this weekend. I am in a spot where I could be playing regularly if I do well in the next couple of games, if I get my chance. [The main goal] is to play the best we can and finish better than last season at a minimum."

Lichaj and Aston Villa kick off the 2012-2013 EPL season on Saturday when they travel to London to face West Ham United.