Dean Smith has challenged Aston Villa to prove they can match Manchester United as he believes they did against Chelsea in the Premier League.
Villa go to Old Trafford on Saturday sitting 10th in the Premier League table, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United joint top with Chelsea and Liverpool.
Smith’s side have lost twice to Chelsea this month – a 3-0 loss in the Premier League and a penalty shootout defeat in the Carabao Cup – but those two results came either side of a 3-0 win against Everton last weekend.
He believes the performances, despite the results, have proven they can match the top teams in the league.
He said: “Our job is to go there and go toe to toe with them, like we did at Chelsea.
“The Chelsea Premier League game was the catalyst – we went toe to toe with them and created big chances. A mistake killed the game for us in that one.
“We took that positivity into the game against Everton and it was a bit of a chess game for 60 minutes but once we got our first goal, it was all guns blazing and a comfortable win in the end.
“We feel like there’s a lot of confidence and belief in the group and we feel like we’ve got a talented group, so there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be.”
Smith is without Axel Tuanzebe, who cannot play against his parent club, Leon Bailey (quad) and Morgan Sanson (hamstring).
Sanson has made just 10 appearances since a £14m January move from Marseille and made his fourth Villa start in the Carabao Cup penalty defeat at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday before being forced off.
Smith added: “It’s really disappointing for Morgan and frustrating for him. He has had to battle away for the last four or five months with a knee injury. He gets over that and he built up minutes.
“He was ready to play against Chelsea and he was playing well. He just felt a twinge in his hamstring and it can happen to players who haven’t had a full pre-season.”
Mings excited to test himself against Ronaldo
Villa captain Tyrone Mings is looking forward to testing himself against Cristiano Ronaldo as he attempts to halt the Manchester United star’s scoring streak.
Back with United after 12 years at Real Madrid and Juventus, the Portugal striker hit the ground running with four goals in his first three appearances.
Ronaldo will step out at Old Trafford for the second time since re-joining the club on Saturday lunchtime, when Mings will need to play an instrumental role if Villa are to become the first side to stop him scoring since his return.
The England international is excited by the challenge of facing the 36-year-old, who was scoring goals at the Bernabeu when Mings was playing non-league football at Chippenham.
“I was talking to my best friend about this last night actually because of course playing at Old Trafford and playing against Man United is a big occasion anyway, as a player who started quite late in his career and came through non-league,” Mings said.
“Of course, things like this are special moments because there was a time when I never thought it would happen.
“But I don’t have that non-league head on anymore where it’s kind of fazing or likely to be starstruck.
“But saying that, I’d always want the Ronaldos and the Messis of this world to be in the Premier League to play against because they’re the sort of players you want to not only see in the league but as a defender, you want to play against them.
“You want to test yourself against them, you want to learn from them as well because he will do things in a game I’m sure that perhaps you haven’t seen before or individual bits of quality that other people can’t replicate.”
Source : Sky Sports