Aston Villa manager Dean Smith has insisted that he doesn’t fear Derby County ahead of tomorrow’s clash between the two sides, as reported by Birmingham Live.
The fifth-placed Rams have impressed in recent weeks, hitting their stride and brushing aside the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City.
Frank Lampard’s side will be full of confidence as they host Villa at Pride Park but Smith claims that he doesn’t fear them:
“It’ll be a tough challenge.
“I’ve already been there with Brentford this year and they were very destructive after going behind.
“It showed how good some of their players are, but there’s also going to be opportunities for us to exploit their weaknesses. Frank Lampard has done well so far. He went in and realised what he needed and has some good loan players to supplement the experienced ones they had already.
“They certainly play with a lot of energy and have had a good start.
“I fully respect what they’re doing but I’m in no way fearful of them. We’ve got some good players of our own who’ll look forward to facing Derby.”
Smith has made a mixed start to life in the Midlands, guiding the Villains to impressive victories over Swansea City and Bolton Wanderers but overseeing defeats to Norwich City and QPR.
The former Brentford boss has identified the team’s defending as an area to improve and has been using videos to prepare his side for the threat of Derby’s frontline:
“We watched some clips of Derby and how they defend, as well as how well other teams do so – like Napoli, Juventus and Chelsea. Top teams.
“The players want to improve and it’s good to show them the best players in the world at times.”
There will be something else lingering in Smith’s mind during tomorrow’s fixture, as dangerman Jack Grealish is just one booking away from a suspension. Smith, however, believes that the 23-year-old needs to focus on the game as opposed to the potential ban:
“He knows the situation, he’s one game away from a suspension. I’ve not had to speak to him. He’s got to play his normal game. Some of his bookings have been through frustration – mostly at being kicked all over the place.
“He’ll need a little more emotional control as of now. Being a Villa fan, I’m sure it’s one he wants to play in (the Midlands derby, which follows tomorrow’s game).
“At the same time, he can’t worry about that specifically. He needs to focus on the game.”
Villa trail Derby by seven points and will be keen to close the gap by picking up three points at the Rams’ expense.