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Aston Villa boss Dean Smith wants squad to lift pressure off star players

Boss Dean Smith has urged Aston Villa’s squad to lift the pressure off their star men.

Villa go to Leicester on Monday stuck in the relegation zone after three straight Premier League defeats.

They also lost last Sunday’s Carabao Cup final 2-1 to Manchester City at Wembley.

Villa are second bottom with 11 games remaining and Smith insists it must be a squad effort if they are going to beat the drop.

He said: “Jack (Grealish) and Tyrone (Mings) have done really well, but the likes of Ally Samatta, who’s been a really bright spark for us, can be really important from now until the end of the season.

“John McGinn is coming back and there will be a lot of pressure put on him because of his form before the injury.

“I thought Marvelous Nakamba was excellent against Manchester City, and if we’ve got these sort of players in form and performing well, we’ve got a good chance.”

Villa have not won since they beat Leicester in the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg 2-1 in January while the Foxes have one win in six in all competitions.

Brendan Rodgers’ side will go into the game third in the Premier League and Rodgers has earned admiration from Smith.

“They didn’t get the result they wanted at Norwich but their performances have been good enough,” he added.

“They’ve had some inconsistent results but Brendan has done fantastically. We know we are going to have to be on our toes.

“It’s a tough league, you only have to look at Manchester City who are an unbelievable team and have lost five or six.

“Liverpool go and get beaten at Watford and all of a sudden have lost three in four. It shows how hard the league can be.”

Smith also welcomed the cancellation of the pre-match handshake because of the coronavirus.

But the manager feels the pre-game tradition is unnecessary anyway.

He said: “They have stopped the fair play handshake and it’s about time because at the end of the game is when you show respect to the opposition.”