Preview: Aston Villa v Swans
Swansea City will look to spoil Dean Smith’s welcome party when they run out in front of more than 41,000 fans at Aston Villa this afternoon.
Smith steps into the home dugout at Villa Park for the first time having left Brentford to take the reins at his boyhood club.
The former Brentford and Walsall boss will be flanked by long-time No. 2 Richard O’Kelly as well as John Terry, the ex-Villa skipper who has returned as part of Smith’s management team.
The appointment of a new regime – which comes after Steve Bruce’s departure earlier this month – certainly appears to have caught the imagination of the fans.
There were 27,000 at Villa’s last home game, against Preston North End, yet today’s game is a sell-out.
Every away ticket has been snapped up, too, with more than 2,700 members of the Jack Army heading to Birmingham hoping to see Graham Potter’s team bounce back after that frustrating defeat to Ipswich Town last time out.
The Swans played some lovely football and scored a couple of goals, but some uncharacteristically poor defending meant they came away with nothing.
They will look to respond on the road, where they have done pretty well so far this season.
There has been just one away defeat in six – and that was in unfortunate circumstances at Stoke – meaning Potter’s men should travel with confidence.
They face a Villa side who have won just one of their last 11 games in all competitions – although that form may count for little as the Smith era begins.
Villa are boosted by the return of Wales defender James Chester after suspension, but there are doubts over Mile Jedinak (hamstring) and young striker Keinan Davis is set to miss out.
The Swans are still without Wilfried Bony and Jefferson Montero, but other than that Potter’s squad are in good shape with no fresh concerns following the international break.
Graham Potter: “Aston Villa have invested in their squad. They have some good players. Of course they have got the resources to be considered a favourite for promotion.”
New Villa boss Dean Smith: “Walking out at Villa Park on Saturday will be the emotional part, then I’ll get my game head on.”
REMEMBER THE LAST TIME?
The Swans last played Aston Villa at the Liberty in March 2016, when Federico Fernandez’s goal was enough to secure three points for the home side.
A scrappy game was won by a scrappy goal, but Francesco Guidolin’s Swans did not care as they took a step closer to Premier League survival by beating the division’s bottom club.
They had also won at Villa earlier in the season, when Jordan Ayew put the hosts in front but Gylfi Sigurdsson levelled with a fine free-kick.
Andre Ayew sealed victory for the Swans – who were then managed by Garry Monk – by steering home from Kyle Naughton’s cross late on.
5 – The Swans have won their last five games against Aston Villa.
2 – The Swans could come up against two former players today, with Neil Taylor and Tammy Abraham both hoping to start for Villa.