LIVERPOOL, United Kingdom, April 6 (BSS/AFP) - Kenny Dalglish is backing goalkeeper Alexander Doni to help salvage Liverpool's Premier League campaign.
Brazil international Doni has yet to play a senior game since moving to Merseyside from Roma last July as back-up for first- choice Pepe Reina.
But with Reina starting a three-match suspension for violent conduct after an angry confrontation with James Perch during last Sunday's 2-0 defeat at Newcastle, Doni will be thrust into the spotlight when Aston Villa visit Anfield here on Saturday.
Doni, who played 179 times over six seasons for Roma, is also set to feature in next Tuesday's game at relegation- threatened Blackburn as well as the FA Cup semi-final against neighbours Everton at Wembley a week on Saturday.
"He's not played in a competitive match for Liverpool before so it'll be difficult for him but then it's difficult for everybody," said Liverpool manager Dalglish, who is seeking to address an alarming slump which has seen the Reds lose six of their last seven league games.
"We do have to make a change but he's worked really hard in training since he's come over from Italy.
"He's played in Serie A so he's got a lot of experience and he has been excellent the way he's worked. He's improved and he's got used to it.
"Obviously he's got a bit of a command of the language now. He's been very patient and he's been unfortunate that he's got such a good goalkeeper in front of him.
"Doni will be ready to play and step up, but it's not easy to step into any position on a football pitch for the first time."
Liverpool's poor league form has seen them drop to eighth in the table, 34 points behind leaders Manchester United.
It is their worst run of results for 59 years but Dalglish, an icon for what he achieved at Liverpool as a player and during his first stint as manager, is determined to stop the slide.
"I don't know if I experienced a run of results like this," he said.
"Someone told me for the club it was the worst since 1953 -- I'm not that old and so can't remember that far back.
"I suppose the worst I've experienced was when I think we were third or fourth-bottom one year at Christmas time, which wasn't pleasant. "But I don't think it matters what the results have been, we've lost games everywhere.
"At any stage of your career you lose games and it is how you react and respond to it which is important.
"What number of games, and whether they are back to back, is in many ways irrelevant because you don't like to lose any games."
Villa manager Alex McLeish has revealed owner Randy Lerner, a US businessman, gave a rallying call the players at training this week.
The West Midlands club have been sucked into relegation trouble after just one win from their last eight top-flight games, leaving them only five points clear of the bottom three.
Villa also been in a state of shock after captain Stiliyan Petrov was diagnosed with leukaemia last week.
"Randy was in on Tuesday morning," said McLeish. "He was in to see Stiliyan on Monday but he came up and spoke to the lads and said a few words about Stan.
"He wished the players all the best and told them to be strong themselves and be in charge of their own destiny for the remaining eight games, and for the youngsters to really make a go of it.
"It was good for the chairman to do that with the boys.
"He normally just observes but he had a couple of words about Stan's illness and said that we're obviously all standing toe-to- toe to support Stan."
Villa could welcome back French winger Charles N'Zogbia (knee) and Alan Hutton (calf).
However, Carlos Cuellar (thigh) is likely to miss both Liverpool and Monday's game with Stoke.