Aston Villa manager Dean Smith. Picture: ACTION IMAGES/REUTERS/CARL RECINE
Aston Villa manager Dean Smith. Picture: ACTION IMAGES/REUTERS/CARL RECINE

Bengaluru — Aston Villa are a hard team to beat but they will need to be more clinical in front of goal if they are to avoid being relegated from the Premier League, manager Dean Smith said on Thursday.

Villa are 19th in the standings, level on points with Bournemouth and West Ham United above them with only goal difference separating the three sides.

Smith’s side, who have picked up just two points from their past seven games, had 14 attempts on goal in the 1-1 draw with Newcastle United on Wednesday but needed a late header from Egyptian defender Ahmed Elmohamady to rescue a point.

“We know draws are not enough and we need to get some wins from somewhere,” Smith told reporters in a virtual news conference ahead of Saturday’s game against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

“We have been unfortunate not to get the wins but our performance levels have been a lot better. We look a really hard team to beat, we just need to be more clinical.”

Wolves have won both their games since the league’s resumption and are in sixth place, two points behind fourth-placed Chelsea.

“They deserve to be where they are at the moment ... competing in Europe and a realistic aim of being a top six team. Credit goes out to all of them,” the 49-year-old added, hailing the incredible job done by Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo.

Smith confirmed that midfielder John McGinn, who started each of Villa’s three games on his return from a serious ankle injury, could be rested for Saturday’s clash.

Meanwhile, Manchester City’s clash with league leaders Liverpool next Thursday will take place at the Etihad Stadium and not at a neutral ground, despite concerns the venue may attract supporters.

Liverpool could seal their first English league crown in 30 years against City next Thursday, and authorities were concerned that fans might congregate outside the stadium to celebrate their success, flouting restrictions in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The match was one of five that police had requested be played at neutral venues, but Manchester City Council’s safety advisory group (SAG) said that it had no objections to the game taking place at City’s Etihad Stadium.

“After the most recent round of Premier League fixtures ... the SAG has signalled it has no objections to the fixture taking place at the Etihad Stadium as planned,” Luthfur Rahman, executive member of the Manchester city council, said. “As with all other Premier League matches, this fixture will take place behind closed doors, with no fans present.”

If City fail to beat Chelsea on Thursday then Liverpool will be crowned champions. If City win at Stamford Bridge, however, then Liverpool can seal the title with a draw against Pep Guardiola’s side next week.

Reuters