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Aston Villa v Crystal Palace: Dean Smith still a believer

By Matt Maher | Aston Villa | Published:

Dean Smith insists Villa still believe they can beat the drop, yet chances to prove their capability are disappearing fast.

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith chats to his players during the drinks break during the Premier League match at Villa Park, Birmingham. PA Photo. Issue date: Thursday July 9, 2020. See PA story SOCCER Villa. Photo credit should read: Andrew Boyers/NMC Pool/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.

Tomorrow’s visit of Crystal Palace in all probability represents something of a last-chance saloon for a team who, depending on results elsewhere, could find themselves seven points adrift of safety come kick-off.

Thursday’s 3-0 defeat to Manchester United means Villa have taken just two points from six matches since the Premier League’s restart but Smith dismissed the notion his players, who have not tasted victory since January, are beginning to lose heart.

“The belief is there, that’s for sure,” he said. “I can see it in their eyes when they step out to play.

“I can see it on the pitch and I can see it in the meetings we’re having. There’s definitely a belief.

“We’ve just come up against two top-quality teams in Manchester United and Liverpool.

“You can put Chelsea in there as well as the best teams we’ve played. There are other games where we should have got points out of, without a shadow of a doubt.”

No-one would dispute Villa’s fixture list since the league returned last month has been tough. With Wolves having also claimed a 1-0 win at Villa Park, they have faced four of the current top six.

Yet that is all rather academic now. Asked whether tomorrow’s match is “must-win” Smith claimed the answer would need to wait until the results of today’s matches involving rivals in the relegation.

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Should West Ham and Watford beat Norwich and Newcastle respectively, it would push Villa further into the mire but the likelihood is that, regardless of those results, they need to win three of their remaining four matches to survive.

For a team who have failed to win in 10 it would appear a tall order, even more so when you factor in a return of just two goals in their previous eight games.

“Our job is to get lifted again,” said Smith. “Anybody going into these first two games – apart from our dressing room – would have expected zero points.

“The dressing room thought we could get more. The last four games now will sum up our season.

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“They’re games we think we can be competitive against. They’re teams who aren’t Liverpool or Manchester United.

“We need to find that clinical edge. I thought we were better against United, more aggressive on the ball and with people arriving in the box. But it is something we need to improve on. We felt it would come down to these last four. We have to make sure we dust ourselves down and get ready.”

Midfielder John McGinn will be assessed after sustaining a foot injury against United.

Matt Maher

By Matt Maher

Chief sports writer for the Express & Star.

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