Meet the opposition: Aston Villa

24th December 2018
First team

Swansea City face Aston Villa for the first of two meetings in quick succession between the sides on Boxing Day at the Liberty Stadium (3pm).

The two teams will meet at Villa Park in the third round of the FA Cup early in the New Year, but both will only have eyes for this Championship fixture with vital points on the line.

Dean Smith's men came out on top in the reverse fixture in October and have been on a decent run since his appointment.

Here's a guide to the visitors history, and their form.

What’s their story?

Having been one of the mainstay’s of the top-flight, Villa are now in their third-successive season in the Championship following relegation from the Premier League in 2016.

They reached the play-off final last term, only to miss out on a return to the first tier after suffering defeat to Fulham.

Their finest achievement came in the form of their European Cup triumph in 1982, and they also have seven league titles, seven FA Cups and five League Cups to their name.

They endured a difficult summer and a mixed start to the new campaign, but they have been a side on the move since the appointment of Smith in October.

How’s their form?

As mentioned above, they had a mixed start which led to Steve Bruce’s departure and the appointment of Villa fan Smith, who left Brentford to take charge.

They were unbeaten in seven games prior to their meeting with Leeds, and have become something of a freescoring team having netted 23 goals in their last eight outings.

They had won just once in 10 games prior to Smith’s appointment.

They started the festive period on the fringes of the play-off places and have been one of the Championship’s form sides in recent weeks.

Who’s the boss?

Smith has been the man tasked with reviving fortunes for the Villans and he has enjoyed a good start to his tenure and raised hopes of a return to the Premier League.

His stints in charge of Walsall and Brentford have seen him marked out as a man renowned for playing attractive football and producing competitive sides on a limited budget.

During his playing career the former defender he made over 550 league appearances for the likes of Walsall, Leyton Orient, Sheffield Wednesday and Port Vale.

He moved into coaching after hanging up his boots and was named Walsall boss in 2011, enjoying just shy of five successful years in the role, which included a remarkable escape from League One relegation when the Saddlers had been nine points from safety.

He switched to Brentford in 2016 and had the Bees in the play-off hunt in his two full seasons at the helm.

Who are the key men?

Striker Tammy Abraham – who spent last season on loan at Swansea from Chelsea – has been in fantastic form.

The 21-year-old has racked up nine goals in his last seven appearances, including four in a remarkable 5-5 draw with Nottingham Forest.

They boast a strong midfield with John McGinn offering a mix of tenacity and guile, with Jack Grealish widely viewed as among the best operators in the Championship.

They are skippered by experienced Wales defender James Chester, and have another former Swan in their squad in the form of Neil Taylor.

Left-back Taylor made just shy of 180 Swansea appearances in a six-and-a-half year stint in SA1, helping the club to promotion to the Premier League and featuring in Wales’ run to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 along the way.