Meet the opposition: Aston Villa
As Swansea City get set for a return to Championship action against Aston Villa this weekend, we take a closer look at the men from Villa Park.
What’s their story?
Villa had spent only one of the previous 41 seasons outside the top flight until they were relegated from the Premier League in 2016.
They finished 13th in their first campaign as a Championship club, then reached the play-off final last term only to lose out to Fulham at Wembley.
One of just five English clubs to have lifted the European Cup – they beat Bayern Munich in the final in 1982 – Villa have also won seven league titles, seven FA Cups and five League Cups.
As a result they are regarded as one of the biggest clubs in the Championship, while they also have the second tier’s largest stadium.
This season has started with some mixed results, however, hence the departure of manager Steve Bruce earlier this month.
How’s their form?
Villa lost a tight play-off final 1-0 to Fulham back in May, but they have struggled for form since starting this season with successive wins.
Villa have won only once in their last 10 league games, and have not won in four since beating Rotherham a month ago.
The winless sequence has seen draws with Bristol City and Preston sandwiched by defeats to Sheffield Wednesday and Millwall.
Who’s the boss?
Dean Smith. Villa fan Smith, who was born in West Bromwich, will lead his boyhood club for the first time this weekend having left Brentford to take charge of the West Midlands heavyweights.
A former centre-back, he played more than 550 league games for the likes of Walsall, Leyton Orient and Sheffield Wednesday before hanging up his boots to become a coach in 2005.
His first managerial job came at Walsall in 2011. He was promoted from head of youth to take charge of the first team, who were 10 points adrift of safety in League One, and kept the Saddlers in the division by a single point on the final day of the season.
Smith spent almost five years in charge of his old club, winning plaudits for his team’s style of play, before leaving for Brentford.
Again, he was lauded for producing an attractive brand of winning football despite working with a limited budget.
Smith has taken long-serving No. 2 Richard O’Kelly with him to Villa, although former England captain John Terry will also be on his staff.
Who are the key men?
Norwegian international Orjan Nyland is likely to be in goal this weekend, while influential Wales defender James Chester returns after a ban.
The likes of Alan Hutton, Ahmed Elmohamady and former Swan Neil Taylor offer plenty of experience in defence, while Smith has inherited some talented midfielders.
John McGinn has impressed since his summer switch from Hibs, while Connor Hourihane, Glenn Whelan, Birkir Bjarnason and Henri Lansbury are all proven performers.
Jack Grealish offers individual quality, as do widemen Yannick Bolasie and Albert Adomah, and Smith has good options up front.
Jonathan Kodjia, a big-money signing from Bristol City in 2016, leads the scoring charts for Villa with four goals in 10 appearances this season, although ex-Swan Tammy Abraham has netted three times in just six appearances since joining on loan from Chelsea.
Former Brentford frontman Scott Hogan, meantime, will hope for an opportunity under his old boss at Griffin Park.