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Aston Villa boss Dean Smith: Raheem Sterling sets the gold standard

Dean Smith has revealed how watching Raheem Sterling has helped improve Villa’s own attacking players.

Manchester City's Raheem Sterling
Manchester City's Raheem Sterling

Villa will come face-to-face with the 24-year-old tomorrow when they travel to the Etihad Stadium to take on Manchester City.

England international Sterling has enjoyed a blistering start to the season, scoring 16 goals in 17 matches in all competitions for club and country.

And there are few aspects of his game which will come as a surprise to Villa’s players, who have been encouraged to follow his example by Smith.

The Villa boss is always keen for his players to learn from the best and revealed how he uses clips of Sterling in action to teach his squad.

“In the Championship last season, we’d be showing clips of Raheem and some runs he makes to help improve our wide players and forwards,” said the boss.

“We’ll continue to do that because at the moment Man City are one of the top teams in Europe. You have to look at best practice to help your players improve, he’s certainly one example as someone who’s one of the best teams in Europe.”

Sterling, who first broke through as a teenager at Liverpool, has established himself as one of the continent’s top attackers.

Smith added: “It’s about attitude, application, coaching, he looks an altogether all-round player now

“He’s not individualistic, he’s a team player, not just the runs he makes into the box to create goals, but also the recovery runs he makes to get back into shape, that can go unseen sometimes.

“He looks a tremendous prospect, it’s frightening to realise that he’s still only 24.”

Villa have no fresh injury concerns with winger Jota, who underwent a hernia operation earlier this month, the only player not currently training.

James Chester is back with the group though Smith wants the club captain to play 90 minutes, either for the under-23s or in a behind-closed-door friendly, before he is included in a matchday squad.

The 30-year-old missed just one match in two-and-a-half seasons after joining Villa from Albion in the summer of 2016, but has not played since January due to knee and hamstring injury.

Smith admitted the knee problem is one Chester must continue to manage. The Wales international has undergone no surgery, but did have fluid drained from the knee during the summer.

“It’s been difficult for James, but in my eyes he’s still the club captain,” said Smith. “Once he gets himself back to full fitness and back into the team, he’ll grab that armband back off Jack (Grealish).

“I think Jack has got that much respect for James that he will hand it back.

“It’s been a frustrating time for him, but he’s back playing minutes again and has got over the knee injury and the hamstring injury that he had over the summer.

“He just kept getting swelling in the knee. The doctor put him on a management programme and he’s getting on well. I don’t believe he’s in any pain from it any more.

“The following day after an intense session he will get a bit of swelling so we have to manage that. He’s comfortable with the programme he’s on now and is training three or five times a week.”

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