Dean Smith

Aston Villa grab vital point at Brighton

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Injury-hit Aston Villa grabbed a big point at Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

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Leandro Trossard gave Brighton a first half lead but Jack Grealish popped up with a second half equalizer to share the points in a fiery encounter at the Amex.

With the draw both teams remained embroiled in a relegation battle as Brighton have 25 points and sit three points ahead of Villa who occupy 18th, the final relegation spot.


3 things we learned

1. Grealish delivers, again: Riddled by injuries, Villa needed their captain to stand tall. He did. Again. Even in recent heavy defeats Grealish has tried to drive Villa on and he has now scored in their tight win at Burnley and grabbed them a point at Brighton. Against relegation rivals, Grealish has delivered for Villa and at 24 years old he conrinues to mature.

2. Brighton let another lead slip: The Seagulls have won just won of their last eight league games and they keep letting leads slip in tight games. Graham Potter‘s side have plenty of the ball and dominate games but just can’t score the second goal to finish teams off. They have only scored more than one goal once in their last seven games and for all of their fine attacking play, Brighton are three points off the bottom because they can’t finish teams off.

3. Relegation battle coming up: Both teams showed why they will be in a relegation battle all season long. Brighton can’t score or finish teams off, while Villa are too reliant on Grealish and have no real attacking options as they rode their luck at Brighton. Potter and Dean Smith are two progressive, young, English coaches but they will be pushed to their limits to keep their teams up this season. They may also have to put their principles of free-flowing, attacking football to one side if they’re going to be managing PL clubs next season.

Man of the Match: Jack Grealish – Villa’s main man popped up with the goal which grabbed them a point and he was everywhere. Villa had no central striker once again as they wait to bring someone in during the January window with Wesley out for the season, and Grealish made so many runs forward during the game to try and take the pressure off his team.


Jack Grealish smashed an effort just wide as Villa looked dangerous on the counter without a recognized striker.

The Seagulls then came close to the taking the lead as Bernardo‘s cross found Aaron Mooy and his volley was cleared, eventually, as an almighty scramble ensued.

Aaron Connolly then knocked a low cross just wide as he seemed to be surprised that the ball found him in the six yard box.

Brighton took the lead as Neal Maupay ran towards goal and teed up Trossard who fired home across goal and into the far corner.

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Mohamed Trezeguet was denied by Mat Ryan in a rare Villa attack as Brighton were dominating, with young American Indiana Vassilev coming on for his Premier League debut.

Moments later Grealish made it 1-1 as a poor mistake from Brighton saw Douglas Luiz play a long ball over the top and Villa’s skipper slammed home to send the away end wild.

Late on Villa debutant Pepe Reina made a wonderful stop to deny Maupay preserve a point as tempers flared towards and after the final whistle as both sets of players were involved in a huge melee.

PL Sunday Preview: Watford travel to Bournemouth; Aston Villa host City

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures won’t be the busiest of all, but it promises to have some drama as bottom-dwellers Bournemouth and Watford face off, while Manchester City travel to Villa Park.

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Bournemouth vs. Watford — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

It might be difficult to admit, but Nigel Pearson‘s arrival at Watford has done wonders for the club.

The Hornets secured 10 out of the possible 12 points during the festive period, putting the upwards-trending club two points within reach of escaping the drop zone. Throughout that same stretch of four matches, Pearson and company have outscored opponent’s eight goals to two.

The 56-year-old, who last coached Belgium’s Oud-Heverlee Leuven, is implementing an effective and pragmatic 4-2-3-1 system. But perhaps the reason behind the escape trick isn’t solely based on on-field adjustments, but on the emotional investment that the manager is putting forward.

“I’ve been asked a few times already about whether I had still got enthusiasm or the drive or whatever it is to continue to work, and those are the sorts of questions that I’ve asked myself for sure,” he said leading up to Sunday’s match.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think we were capable of getting out of the situation that we’re in, but I can’t ask people to be committed if I’m not committed myself, so all those things are very important to me and I think this club has got a really strong identity and there’s potential for us to rediscover what we are as a football club.

“I do feel attached to being a part of that and trying to rediscover that.”

Eddie Howe‘s Bournemouth, on the other hand, are on the opposite site of the spectrum, falling instead of climbing up the table.

Ravaged by injuries, the Cherries picked up a sole point throughout the same span of four matches. Howe, desperate to animate his team (and supporters), is urging for Dean Court to get loud and hostile again – like in the past.

“Teams used to really fear coming here, a tight ground and a great atmosphere,” Howe said. “We now need that feeling back, which only we can create as a team.

“We’ve had good battles with Watford and I imagine this game will be tight again – our motivation levels have to be higher than theirs.”

INJURIES: Bournemouth — OUT: Danjuma (ankle), King (hamstring), Stacey (hamstring), Brooks (ankle), Daniels (knee) | Watford — OUT: Hughes (groin), Janmaat (knee), Cleverley (calf), Welbeck (hamstring), Femenía (hamstring) Prödl (calf)

Aston Villa vs. Manchester City — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Everything is moving at hyperspeed for Aston Villa, and they probably don’t want it that way.

Days after earning a laudable draw against Leicester City in the semi-final of the EFL Cup, Dean Smith and company host back-to-back champions Manchester City. It wasn’t too long ago that Villa lost Wesley and Tom Heaton to season-ending injuries, either.

Smith recognizes at what speed the challenging hurdles are coming at, but instead preaches for concentration from his players.

“We played the second-placed team in the cup and now we’re playing the team that are third and have won back-to-back titles,” the 48-year-old said. “They have a world-class coach and world-class players, they can afford to spend £50m on a right back, so we know the test.”

“They have had some off days this season – they got beat at Norwich and Wolves – so we must have belief in ourselves, as well as concentration.”

Fresh off a 3-1 victory over rivals Manchester United, the sense is that Manchester City are finally finding their groove again.

Pep Guardiola and his team may be out of contention for a third straight title, but they have a lot to prove with the EFL Cup and Champions League still up for grabs. In fact, Sunday’s match against Villa may well be a preview of the EFL Cup final.

“We have to play all the teams. Sometimes they’re at the top, sometimes in the middle, sometimes at the bottom. It’s a historic club,” Guardiola said prior to Sunday’s match. “They changed their last set-up in the last game. We’ll try to maintain the dynamic we have.”

INJURIES: Aston Villa — OUT: Davis (hamstring), Steer (achilles), Heaton (knee), Wesley (knee), McGinn (foot) | Manchester City OUT: Laporte (knee), Sané (knee) (knee)

Transfer rumor roundup: Man United in talks with Fernandes; Reina to Aston Villa

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A roundup of all of Friday’s biggest transfer rumors, including those involving Premier League outfits.

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After a failed move to Tottenham over the summer, Bruno Fernandes may find himself on English soil after all.

Manchester United are closing to reaching a deal with Sporting Lisboa for their 25-year-old captain Fernandes, according to O Jogo’s Filipe Dias.

The story so far is that United this time are really closing in on Bruno Fernandes,” Dias told Sky Sports. “We ran the story that there are talks between the two clubs and we figured that a deal might be close in the next few days, or hours even, because Sporting need money badly.

“The situation has changed since last summer,”  he added. “They didn’t accept a deal with Tottenham for 70m euros but that would have been paid with €40m upfront and then another €30m.”

Over the summer, Spurs bid a reported $75 million for Fernandes, only for the deal to fall in the late stages. It has been reported that United would get the midfielder at a reduced price given Sporting’s financial hardships.

Emre Can and Donny van de Beek have also been linked to a move to Old Trafford recently.


Aston Villa and AC Milan have agreed on a deal sending Pepe Reina to Villa Park on a season-long loan, according to Sky Sports News.

Both clubs have agreed on a fee for the 37-year-old goalkeeper, who is expected to arrive in Birmingham on Monday to undergo a medical and put pen to paper.

The former Liverpool ‘keeper quickly emerged as Dean Smith‘s following Tom Heaton‘s season-ending injury.

Villa are reportedly also in pursuit of Newcastle striker Dwight Gayle to replace Wesley Morais, who is also out for the season.


Tottenham have made a 18-month loan offer for Benfica’s Gedson Fernandes.

Benfica and West Ham recently agreed a deal in principle for the transfer of the 21-year-old, but Spurs are reportedly making a late push for the midfielder.

Jose Mourinho and company are currently without Moussa Sissoko, who had surgery on his medial collateral ligament late last year.


Arsenal have offered Shkodran Mustafi to Inter Milan, according to Calciomercato.

With newly-appointed Mikel Arteta looking to revamp his squad, Mustafi may see a move this month.

That said, a move to Inter doesn’t seem imminent for the German, as Inter aren’t looking to sign a center-back unless Diego Godin requests a transfer.


Everton are preparing to launch a $33-million bid for Gremio’s Everton Soares, according to ESPN.

The 23-year-old, who has been linked with Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal in the past, has reportedly been approached by Toffees boss Carlo Ancelotti on a move to Goodison Park.

 

Premier League storylines: Matchweek 22

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The Premier League dips its toes back into the water with a 3 p.m. ET Friday match at Bramall Lane before roaring into the weekend with seven Saturday kickoffs.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The opener sees West Ham at Sheffield United, and here’s what to watch for over the weekend.

Can Spurs muster offense without Kane? Will they try? [STREAM]

  • Tottenham Hotspur v. Liverpool, Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC)

If it feels like Liverpool’s title is predestined via a combination of xpected goals Fortune, good bounces, or excellent play, that vibe will only be amped up by Thursday’s visit to Spurs not including Harry Kane. Heung-Min Son and Dele Alli will have to do a lot of heavy lifting, but asking them to do it against thriving, unbeaten Liverpool is a big ask.

The bigger question is whether Jose Mourinho will challenge the Reds back line much at all.

Which Chelsea will show up this week? [STREAM]

  • Chelsea v. Burnley, Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

Who’s going to Stamford Bridge: The Chelsea side who beat Arsenal and Spurs, or the one who’s taken one point from Bournemouth, Southampton, and Brighton? Burnley is going to give them the ball, but will Christian Pulisic and Co. take advantage of it?

Arteta to continue Arsenal’s defense resurgence? [STREAM]

  • Crystal Palace v. Arsenal, Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

A 2-2 draw between these two at the Emirates was one of the wildest matches of the year. Granit Xhaka flipped out on the fans who flipped out on him, and Sokratis Papastathopoulos saw the second goal of a would-be brace stripped away by VAR (probably wrongly, too). But for all of Arsenal’s struggles, the Gunners can leap above the Eagles with a win in South London. And perhaps they can collect a third-straight clean sheet in the process.

Can Villa pull off one of the upsets of the season? [STREAM]

  • Aston Villa v. Manchester City, Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

Injury-hit Villa has had its good moments of late, but the majority of the operation has been poor since the start of December. Take away the 5-0 League Cup beatdown of Liverpool’s kids, and the Villans have produced just two wins in that period (Norwich City and Burnley). Now enter Man City, riding high off an extra day’s rest. It shouldn’t go well for Dean Smith‘s men, but City’s season has been uneven. Maybe?

Watford’s quest to escape the bottom three hits the South Coast [STREAM]

  • Bournemouth v. Watford, Sunday (Watch live, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

Ten of Watford’s 19 season points have come since Dec. 22, and Nigel Pearson‘s Hornets can complete their stunning run out of the drop zone with a win and help from the out-of-town scoreboard on Saturday. The Cherries have sunk in the other direction, claiming just one point in that same period of time. Sitting in 18th place and just a point ahead of Watford, Eddie Howe‘s Bournemouth needs help, fast.

LIVE, League Cup semifinal: Leicester v. Aston Villa

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Leicester City host Aston Villa at the King Power Stadium on Wednesday (kick off, 3 p.m. ET) as a tasty Midlands derby takes place in the League Cup semifinal first leg.

[ LIVE: Leicester v. Aston Villa ]

Brendan Rodgers‘ side, who sit second in the Premier League table, are heavy favorites to advance past injury-hit Villa and reach their first major final in 20 years.

The Foxes beat Villa 4-1 in December and although they’ve slipped up a few times in recent weeks, they will be delighted to have avoided Man City or Man United at the semifinal stage as they are red-hot favorites to reach the final at Wembley.

As for Villa, this competition is a bonus for them as Dean Smith‘s side focus on Premier League survival as they’re embroiled in a relegation battle.

Click on the link above to follow all of the action live, while we will have you covered here on Pro Soccer Talk with analysis and reaction of the first leg clash.