Aston Villa v Brighton: Dean Smith refuses to let his side rest on laurels
With Villa having enjoyed something of a breakthrough performance at Norwich, boss Dean Smith has used the international break to ensure his players remain firmly on their toes.
Some managers would no doubt have responded to such an impressive result by granting some additional time off, particularly with a fortnight’s break until the next game.
Yet not Smith, who instead stuck rigidly to the plan in place before the 5-1 win at Carrow Road, such is his eagerness for Villa to now follow it up against Brighton.
“I am mindful of the fact we can’t be complacent,” he explained. “We felt the Norwich result was coming. Some of our performances suggested that.
“It would have been very easy for me to walk into the dressing room, having won 5-1 and say: ‘Right, I’ll see you on Friday’.
“But no, it was to keep to the plan – Sunday and Monday off and then work, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. That’s what we have done.
“The players probably wanted a few more days off than I have given them but there is work to be done still.
“We need to get better, we need to improve and we are striving to do that in every training session.”
Though several members of the squad have been away on international duty, seven of the XI which started at Norwich have remained at Bodymoor Heath, including skipper Jack Grealish.
The likelihood is for Smith to name an unchanged line-up, with Jota the only injury absentee from the squad, after the Spanish winger having undergone a hernia operation.
Jonathan Kodjia is back in contention for the first time since the opening day of the season and may feature on the bench.
Villa are targeting a second win over Brighton in the space of a month, though both teams will be very different in look to those which faced off in the Carabao Cup.
One player who could remain from the Seagulls XI which went down 3-1 at home to Smith’s men is striker Aaron Connolly. The 19-year-old scored twice on his first-ever Premier League start as Brighton beat Tottenham prior to the international break and has since gone on to make his senior international bow with the Republic of Ireland.
Smith said: “We will have to watch out for him. He played in the Carabao Cup game against us, so we saw him first hand.
“He is a player with huge potential and has certainly hit the ground running. Our defenders will know enough about him for the game on Saturday.”
Jota, who joined in a £2million deal from rivals Blues in the summer, is expected to miss around a fortnight after undergoing surgery on a problem which had dogged him for several months.
“He has had pain there for a long time, since he has been at Birmingham,” explained Smith.
“He came here and passed a medical but it was something he was playing with.
“It got to the stage when he was only 80 per cent and at this level, in the Premier League, you can’t play at 80 per cent. He has gone under the knife and should be out for a couple of weeks.”
Club captain James Chester, who has not played since January, is expected to feature for the under-23s when they face Fulham on Monday.