Gary Neville believes Aston Villa will have strong competition if they aspire to gatecrash the Premier League’s top six places this season.
With one win, one draw and two loses in the first four games of the new Premier League campaign, Smith will be hoping his side can kick-start their season against Everton at the weekend.
A 3-0 defeat to Chelsea last time out wasn’t a fair reflection of Villa’s impressive performance and their slow start to the season is largely down to the lack of players Smith has been allowed to pick from.
In a 3-2 opening day defeat to Watford, Ollie Watkins was injured and unavailable, while Leon Bailey would only play part of the second half and later miss games against Newcastle and Brentford due to injury.
Danny Ings has been an ever present in the starting line-up, but Emiliano Buendia – after recovering from a pre-season injury in time for Villa’s curtain raiser at Vicarage Road – didn’t feature against Chelsea last time out due to his decision to join Argentina for the September internationals in a red-list country with Villa team-mate Emiliano Martinez.
As Villa welcome Everton to Villa Park this weekend, Smith will have the opportunity to select arguably his strongest 11 with new summer recruits and last season’s regulars all available for selection for the first time.
Everton travel to down to Birmingham unbeaten this season and sitting in the top four.
Despite their superior form compared to Villa, former Manchester United right-back Gary Neville believes Rafa Benitez’s side will get ‘a measure’ of where they are after Saturday.
“I think it was critical he (Benitez) got off to a good start,” said Neville on Sky Sports. “But both of us (Neville and Carragher) said a couple of weeks ago that Rafa Benitez would do well.
“He’s a good coach. He gets results and he knows what to do. He knows how to manage players.
“You look at those fixtures, look Villa are a good team. Villa, to be fair, away will be a hard game, so that will be a very good measure of where Everton are.
“Villa will have aspirations to get right up towards that top-six and top-eight if they can. That’s where they will want to be. And Everton will be thinking the same. That will be a good one, in terms of that next game.”
Do you think Villa will beat Everton on Saturday? Let us know what you think in the comments section below…