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Southampton v Aston Villa preview: Wembley date will not be distraction

A date at Wembley might be looming on the horizon, yet Dean Smith is confident it won’t distract Villa from the first of 12 Premier League ‘cup finals’ tomorrow.

Aston Villa's Tyrone Mings (right) and goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdal (Mark Kerton/PA Wire)
Aston Villa's Tyrone Mings (right) and goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdal (Mark Kerton/PA Wire)

The trip to Southampton comes just eight days before Villa face Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final, the club’s first major final for five years.

But with top-flight survival still a long way from secure, boss Smith does not believe the prospect of tying down a place in the Wembley showpiece should provide any greater incentive for his players against the Saints.

“I would suggest if these players are serious in their careers, then they want to be Premier League players,” he said. “That means every game is a cup final for them, whether it is Bournemouth away, Southampton away or Tottenham.

“They want to continue to be Premier League players and the way they do that is by winning games. Win this cup final to be in the next one.”

Smith continued: “It’s no distraction – it’s no bigger than Southampton and at the moment Southampton is our only attention.

“We’ve got 13 games to play, 12 in the Premier League and every game we go into, we’ll scrap for points.”

Last week’s agonising defeat to Tottenham left Villa precariously perched, just a place and a point above the drop zone.

The loss was their 15th in 26 top-flight matches, with only bottom-placed Norwich having lost more. Yet Smith remains convinced his team will find a way out of trouble.

“I have a great belief in the group,” he said. “We are in a position we do not want to be in and obviously we would be happier with eight or nine more points.

“But we are where we are and you just have to deal with it. The (winter) break did us the world of good.

“I know the training since that break has been excellent. We took that into the first 30-45 minutes of the Spurs game and should have been out of sight really. It was unbelievable to sit there at half-time 2-1 down.”

Southampton sit 12th in the table, but are just six points ahead of Villa and have the Premier League’s worst home record, having picked up just 11 points at St Mary’s Stadium.

On the flip side, Villa have the second poorest away record and Smith will stress to his players the importance of making a strong start to the match.

“Their head coach has said himself it’s been tough for them to play at home,” he said.

“There’s been an awful lot of pressure on them, and in the first 15 minutes of games, there’s an expectation on them and the players have not handled that as well as they could have. But we have to concentrate on ourselves, we have to make sure we put that pressure on to Southampton and their supporters to try to turn them against their team.

“Their home record hasn’t been great. They seem to have prospered away from home this season and hopefully that’s something we can play on.

“If we can play to the capabilities we’ve got, we can be a match for anyone.”

With Tyrone Mings set to return, Smith’s biggest selection headache is in midfield, where Marvelous Nakamba could replace Chelsea loanee Danny Drinkwater.

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