Premier League: Aston Villa v Burnley

The last time Dean Smith’s side won in front of the Holte End was when Liverpool were humbled 7-2, with a trio of home losses following that historic result.

Brighton, Southampton and Leeds have all beaten Villa since then, but Smith will be hopeful that struggling Burnley will gift him an early Christmas present when the sides kick-off.

It’s probably not the best time to play the Clarets though, as Sean Dyche’s side are buzzing from beating Arsenal on Sunday and have renewed optimism ahead of what looks like being a relegation fight this season.

Sunday’s three points at Wolves did come at a price for Villa, as both Douglas Luiz and Matty Cash will be missing through suspension. Cash picked up his fifth booking of the season, while the Brazilian midfielder was shown a red card for two bookable offences.

There’s better news in the shape of Ross Barkley’s potential return to the squad though, as the England midfielder continues to recover from a hamstring injury. Smith confirmed he will be looked at on the day of the game before a decision is made on his fitness.

Tom Heaton could return to the squad for the first time this season after recovering from a bad ACL injury, but Wesley needs more time after a similar injury and won’t be involved.

Burnley’s tight-knit squad is in good health at the minute, with the Clarets’ form improving since the influential trio of James Tarkowski, Nick Pope and Ben Mee have all been available.

Midfielders Jack Cork and Johan Berg Gudmundsson have been struggling with injuries, but along with Dale Stephens and Phil Bardsley, came through an under-23 game on Monday fine and could make the squad.

Dyche is unlikely to make too many changes to the side that beat Arsenal on Sunday night, with Ashley Westwood and Josh Brownhill continuing in central midfield after the former recovered from an attempted chokeslam by Granit Xhaka.

Aston Villa take on Burnley on Thursday, December 17th. Kick-off is at 6pm.

Premier League: Aston Villa vs Brighton and Hove Albion

Villa have been one of the season’s surprise packages and find themselves sixth in the league after seven games, and full of confidence after beating Arsenal 3-0 in their last Premier League outing.

It’s been less happy at home in recent times though, having lost their only two league games on their own patch this season. Boss Dean Smith has targeted the visit of the Seagulls as a chance to turn that form around, having lost to Leeds and Southampton in their last two games at Villa Park.

Smith will be pleased that he has no new injury concerns ahead of the game, with Tom Heaton and Wesley still out with long-term injuries. Heaton has played some football since returning to training with the under-23’s but isn’t fit enough to return to the squad, while Wesley has started ball work after a similar injury to his knee ligaments.

The Villa boss also confirmed in Thursday’s press conference that Björn Engels and Frédéric Guilbert are unavailable for the weekend, but Kortney Hause returned to training late in the week and could make the squad.

Bertrand Traore had been struggling with a thigh injury, but played 90 minutes for Burkina Faso on Monday and should be involved in the squad. He’s unlikely to start though, as Smith hinted at continuity for the visit of Graham Potter’s side.

Speaking of Potter, Brighton are set to welcome back some faces to their squad. Aaron Connolly and Solly March have both returned to training and will be involved, while Lewis Dunk returns after a three-match suspension.

Leandro Trossard and Davy Propper are doubts though, after the Dutchman had a stomach illness in the week and may be forced to miss out as a result. Trossard isn’t completely ruled out, but Potter has said that the game might come too soon for him after injury.

Alexis Mac Allister, Christian Walton, Florin Andone and Jose Izquierdo are all ruled out.

With just six points on board after eight games, Brighton will be hoping to close the gap on the teams directly above them in the table, as a four point deficit has opened up between them and 15th-placed Leeds United.

Aston Villa take on Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday, November 21st. Kick-off is at 3pm.

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith reserved regarding 5 substitutes in Premier League

Prior to the international break the likes of Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp were outspoken on the need to bring back the option for more replacements during matches to prevent injuries.

But Smith, who has seen Jack Grealish and John McGinn each play three times in a week for England and Scotland respectively, has not seen an impact on his players.

“We had a meeting yesterday and we spoke at length about each manager’s individual feelings,” he said.

“I can only go from my football club, and if player welfare becomes an issue then it’s a no-brainer and you have to increase substitutions or look at the fixture scheduling.

“At the moment, I’m not seeing any trends from my players that suggest player welfare is an issue.

“I speak to my players all the time – I want the best for them and I want to look after them. That’s what we’re doing.”

Regarding his own current injury situation Smith said goalkeeper Tom Heaton, who has been out since New Year’s Day with a knee injury, continues to work his way back to fitness.

However, this weekend’s match against Brighton comes too soon for him or the likes of Bjorn Engels and Frederic Guilbert.

“(Heaton) played against Burnley Under-23s and he played an in-house game that we had last week,” he added.

“He needs a few more minutes but he’s training with the first team every day.

“Wesley Moraes is a bit behind but he’s starting to do some ball work and build up his strength. We’re trying to get him up to speed so that he can join in.

“Bjorn Engels has a thigh injury and he’s not trained with us yet, nor has Fred Guilbert who has a side strain. Kortney Hause should start back training today.”

Smith will hope, however, an in-form Grealish returns unscathed after some impressive displays for England.

“Jack’s at the top of his game and I’m really pleased for him and proud of him,” said the Villa boss.

“I’m pleased for him more than anything because he’s worked extremely hard and he continues to do so.

“I think anybody at Aston Villa would have more of a biased opinion and say he’s been performing like that for a while.

“I actually didn’t watch England vs Ireland because one of our other players had a bigger game in the Euro play-offs, John McGinn (for Scotland) against Serbia. I watched that game.”

Premier League: Aston Villa vs Southampton

A perfect start was emphatically ended by Marcelo Bielsa’s side last week, but Dean Smith’s team still find themselves third in the table and could end the weekend top of the pile if other results go their way.

The Villa manager has called for a response from his troops, who have no new injury worries to deal with ahead of the visit of Southampton. Goalkeeper Tom Heaton is close to returning to action, but wasn’t ready to play in a behind-closed-doors friendly earlier this week. He’s expected to play for the under-23’s in the coming weeks as he returns from a long-term knee injury.

Brazilian striker Wesley is still missing, but could step up his return after the international break, while Kortney Hause is expected to miss out again with a groin injury.

Southampton might be tempted to keep the same XI that beat Everton last weekend, although they do have Theo Walcott available again after missing the game against his parent club.

Will Smallbone is still out with a hamstring injury, and despite training this week, Moussa Djenepo will also miss the game. New signing Mohamed Salisu is also out, but is closing in on a debut in the coming weeks.

Aston Villa take on Southampton on Sunday, November 1st. Kick off is at 12pm.

Aston Villa sack Sporting Director over poor player recruitment

Just a day after Villa had secured Premier League survival by virtue of a 1-1 draw with West Ham, the club moved to dismiss Pitarch, who oversaw £140m of spending on players last summer.

It’s understood that the powers that be at Aston Villa are unhappy with the player recruitment this season, but are happy with manager Dean Smith – reports claim that he would have stayed at Villa Park regardless of whether the club were relegated to the Championship.

Smith is allegedly responsible for the capture of Tom Heaton and Tyrone Mings, but several underperforming signings such as Wesley, Marvelous Nakamba and Mbwana Samatta were all on the Sporting Director’s watch.

Whoever the club bring in to replace the outgoing Jesus Gracia Pitarch will have a job on their hands, with their first task the unenviable challenge of keeping hold of star player and talisman Jack Grealish.

Aston Villa set for Premier League relegation decider at West Ham

This fixture could easily have been a relegation showdown on the final day, but West Ham’s recent revival means the Hammers already safe.

For Villa, a crucial win over Arsenal last time out, alongside Watford’s defeat to Manchester City, means they move out of the relegation zone for the first time since November.

Villa must better Watford’s result at Arsenal – in both points and goals – if Dean Smith’s want to preserve their Premier League position.

Any two of Watford, Bournemouth or Aston Villa face the drop going into Sunday – and a Villa win is vital to offer the best chance of survival.

Smith will be without long term absentees Wesley, Tom Heaton, Bjorn Engels and Ahmed Elmohamady through injury, but Neil Taylor could be fit in time to play, with the Welsh international set for a late fitness test.

West Ham meanwhile have the pressure off this weekend, with David Moyes set to rotate his side, in the likely absence of Robert Snodgrass, Jarrod Bowen and Aaron Creswell against Villa.

West Ham United v Aston Villa at the London Stadium is a 4pm kick off on Sunday, July 26.