Aston Villa boss Smith inspired by Liverpool and Tottenham’s heroics

Boss Dean Smith will take inspiration for Liverpool and Tottenham’s Champions League heroics in Aston Villa’s promotion bid.

They host rivals West Brom in the first leg of their Sky Bet Championship play-off semi final on Saturday.

Villa were beaten finalists, losing 1-0 to Fulham last year, and finished fifth this season after a club record of 10 straight wins propelled them into the play-offs.

Liverpool beat Barcelona 4-0 after being 3-0 down following their Champions League semi-final first leg while Tottenham came back from 3-0 down on aggregate against Ajax to draw 3-3 and reach the final on away goals on Wednesday.

Villa go to The Hawthorns for the second leg on Tuesday and Smith knows regardless of what happens on Saturday the tie will not be finished.

“We’ve seen with Liverpool and Tottenham in the last few days that it’s never over,” he told a press conference.

“There will still be something to play for, whether it’s 0-0 or 3-0 when we go there.

“We have great belief in our squad and this team. We’ve got six or seven players who can change a game.

“The run we’ve had these last few months has been purely down to that team ethic.”

Smith also played down any financial worries which may force Villa to sell their stars, including Jack Grealish, if they miss out on promotion.

Villa are in the final year of parachute payments following relegation from the Premier League in 2016.

Smith added: “We’ve got new owners who have taken over this season and they’ve got a long-term plan for the future.

“Yes, we want to get to the Premier League as soon as possible but if we don’t then we’re fully compliant with everything so we’ll get on with it.”

Albion finished four points ahead of Villa in the table and beat them 2-0 at Villa Park before drawing 2-2 at The Hawthorns in the regular season.

Grealish missed the draw in February but was key in Villa’s winning run of 10 straight games after recovering from a shin injury.

But interim boss Jimmy Shan insisted there are no special plans for the midfielder.

“We’re looking at stopping Aston Villa, not anyone in particular,” he told a press conference. “Jack is someone who has had a fantastic season and is a fantastic player.

“They’ve got some great talent throughout their squad and people who can cause problems.

“It would be foolish for us to just steer our focus towards stopping one player because of how much of a threat they are as a team.

“Within that we need to understand the threats individual players have.

“That’s part of preparing your team to make sure you stop them from gaining any dominance or control and ultimately any penetration and scoring goals.”

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