All bets are off warns City’s relegation rival

Norwich City's relegation rivals Aston Villa get the Premier League season back up and running tomorrow against Sheffield United  Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City's relegation rivals Aston Villa get the Premier League season back up and running tomorrow against Sheffield United Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Paul Chesterton

Aston Villa chief Dean Smith agrees with Daniel Farke clubs marooned at the bottom of the Premier League can still pull off a great escape ahead of this week’s return to action.

Villa host Sheffield United on Wednesday behind closed doors in the first Premier League game since the global pandemic put professional football on hold.

City’s head coach labelled it nine cup finals recently, ahead of Friday’s home league opener against Southampton at Carrow Road, and Smith is under no illusions at the size of the task facing his own club.

Villa sit just one place and four points ahead of the Canaries, with both mired in the bottom three.

“This is a brand-new season, it’s tournament football for 10 games and we’re prepared for that,” he said. “It (the break in fixtures) gave us an opportunity to stop, reset, reflect and review a little bit on what we’d done before.

“We’ve certainly learnt an awful lot of lessons, but the proof of the pudding is putting those lessons into practice now in the remaining games. I’m very confident we can go and do that.”

Villa completed a league double over City earlier this season before the football season was halted.

Smith, however, believes previous form goes out of the window with players now being asked a different set of questions to cope under such unique circumstances.

“We’ve spoken about the teams we’re playing, we’ve spoken about form, and there is no form, we’re going into this with everybody on an even keel now,” he said, speaking to his club’s official site.

Dean Smith is up for the challenge of keeping Aston Villa in the Premier League Picture: PADean Smith is up for the challenge of keeping Aston Villa in the Premier League Picture: PA

“Conditioning-wise, I’m really pleased with where the players are.

“And the mental side of it, we’ve done a lot of work during lockdown on that but also now we’ve just been giving little video messages going into the practice games that we’ve had.

“Mentality is going to be the most important thing when you go into these games, especially with no supporters there.

“It’s going to be that inner driving force that pushes people on at times.

“Where normally you would have the adrenaline from the noise and the crowd, it’s one of those where you’ve got to drive yourself.

“The players have been doing a lot of work on what drives them, what’s that innerness and the team spirit that’s going to get us going. They’ve worked very hard on it and it’s something we’re quite positive about now.”

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