Aston Villa boss Dean Smith: West Brom are favourites for play-off clash
Dean Smith insists Villa are the underdogs in their Championship play-off semi-final showdown with rivals Albion.
The Villa boss has labelled the Baggies favourites ahead of tomorrow’s first leg and dismissed the notion his team might become victims of overconfidence.
Villa charged into the play-offs thanks to a club record-breaking 10 match winning run during the final two months of the season.
But they took just one point from two league fixtures against their neighbours and were beaten on their own turf by Albion in February.
Smith said: “I’ve heard people talk saying that Villa think they are at Wembley already. Far from it.
“We have only ever taken one game at a time. West Brom have been confirmed in the play-offs a lot longer than we have.
“We know it’s going to be a difficult game – two difficult games against them.
“I know there’s several pundits out there saying we’re the favourites but West Brom have been above us all season.
“They are the ones who came down from the Premier League last season, they’ve got a squad of Premier League players and we’ve yet to beat them this season.
“So for me they’re the favourites and we’re looking forward to spoiling their party.”
Smith also sought to play down any financial pressures which might increase the importance of Villa escaping the Championship this season.
Despite being on a far firmer footing than 12 months ago thanks to the arrival of new billionaire owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens, Villa are in the final year of parachute payments and would likely be forced to sell Jack Grealish should they again miss out on promotion.
But when asked who is under more pressure to go up, Smith replied: “You’d have to ask West Brom that. I can only concentrate on ourselves.
“They’ve probably let a manager go (Darren Moore) when they were fourth to try and chase second. At least that’s how it appeared to me. I don’t think the needs are greater for either club.
“We’ve got new owners who have taken over this season and they’ve got a long-term plan for the future.
“Yes, we want to get to the Premier League as soon as possible but if we don’t then we’re fully compliant with everything so we’ll get on with it.
"We've not talked about Wembley at all. We've got two big games to get over. They are both going to be really tough games. We're not even looking towards that at all. It's one game at a time and they don't come harder than West Brom at home."