Smith wants respect not fear from Villa side

Aston Villa
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith says his team are now a different animal to the side that lost in the Championship play-off final last year.

Dean Smith has urged his Aston Villa players not to fear Manchester City when they go head-to-head at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

Villa make the trip to the defending Premier League champions for Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off and the visitors are on a four-game unbeaten run in all competitions heading into the contest, beating Brighton twice (in the league and EFL Cup), thrashing Norwich City 5-1 and drawing 2-2 with Burnley.

The Villans have climbed to 12th in the standings as a result of this good patch of form, three points clear of the relegation zone, but they could find life difficult against a City side they haven’t defeated since September 2013, while the West Midlands outfit have not won at the Etihad Stadium since 2008.

Pep Guardiola’s side thrashed Atalanta 5-1 on Tuesday night in the Champions League – the highlight being an 11-minute, second-half hat-trick from Raheem Sterling – and the Citizens have won seven of their last eight matches in all competitions.

City have only tasted defeat once from their last 23 home games and they will be looking to reduce the gap to table-toppers Liverpool to three points and put some pressure on the Reds ahead of their clash with Tottenham on Sunday.

Although fully aware of the quality City have, Smith has urged his Villa players to remain positive ahead of the contest and not to show any fear.

He told Club TV: “It’s 11v11. The mental side of going into games like this is so important – ‘don’t fear them, respect them by all means because they are top players’. But we have players who want to be top players and have the potential to be – so there’s your stage, go and show it.”

Villa and City have scored 44 goals between them in the league this season and punters may decide to use their free bet on the two teams putting on a goal-fest this Saturday.