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Smith urges caution as hotshot Connolly comes to Villa Park

Aston Villa head coach Dean Smith is wary of teenage striker Aaron Connolly ahead of Brighton’s visit to the midlands on Saturday afternoon.

Connolly exploded on to the scene before the international break as he marked his first Premier League start with a stunning double in Albion’s 3-0 victory over Tottenham.

The 19-year-old, who made his Republic of Ireland debut against Georgia last week, was already on Smith’s radar, having led the line for an hour in Brighton’s defeat by Villa in the Carabao Cup third round.

Smith said: “We’ll have to watch out for him. He played in the Carabao Cup game as well against us, so we’ve seen him firsthand.

“He’s a player with huge potential, he’s certainly hit the ground running with his first start and two goals against the Champions League finalists.

“Our defenders will know enough about him certainly for the game on Saturday.”

Last month’s meeting between the sides saw both Smith and Brighton counterpart Graham Potter make wholesale changes, so the Villa boss does not anticipate the result to have any bearing on this weekend’s contest.

Smith said: “Hopefully the outcome will be the same but we changed nine players for that game and they changed 11. It will be a different set of players that are playing against each other.”

While Brighton will visit Villa Park oozing confidence after brushing aside Spurs last time out, Smith’s side can afford to be bullish about their own prospects after hammering Norwich 5-1.

Smith, who will be without midfielder Jota for the next couple of weeks after the Spaniard’s hernia operation, is not resting on his laurels.

He said: “This league can punish you in the flash of an eye.

“It would have been very easy for me to walk into the dressing room after the (Norwich win) and say, ‘right, I’ll see you on Friday’. No, it was, ‘keep to the plan. Sunday, Monday off, work Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday’.

“The players have done that and probably wanted a few more days off than I’ve given them but the work is there to be done still. We need to get better, we need to improve and we’re striving to do that in every training session.”

Prince William, one of Villa’s most famous fans, was in attendance at Carrow Road earlier this month, alongside his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, and their young family, including Prince George.

Summer signing Wesley, who bagged a brace against the Canaries, posted on Instagram: “Hey Will, dropping some tickets for our next game in your grandma’s mailbox. See you at Villa Park mate!”

Smith added: “I did see his Instagram posts and I did explain to him that I found it funny but a little bit cheesy. But it was quite difficult to describe what cheesy meant in Portuguese!

“We all saw the pictures of Prince William and Prince George at the game and it was great to see a future King of England celebrating with his wife and son at the game.

“I think Wes saw a moment there and certainly took it to probably boost his Instagram followers in Brazil.”