Boss Dean Smith believes Aston Villa can prove their Premier League credentials in 2021.
Villa go to Manchester United fifth on New Year’s Day after Monday’s 1-1 draw at Chelsea extended their unbeaten run to five games.
They have already won at Leicester and Arsenal this season, having also thumped Liverpool 7-2 in October.
Villa play Tottenham and Everton after Friday’s trip to Old Trafford – along with an FA Cup third round tie with Liverpool – and Smith knows the games will be the acid test.
“Well we’re hoping so, in these games last year we were still getting to understand the Premier League,” he said.
“This season we know where we’re at, and we’ve made a big improvement by going to Arsenal and winning and going to Leicester and winning, Liverpool, and getting a point at Chelsea.
“We think we can go and compete with the best in the league, so we’re excited about those opportunities, and we’ll be ready for them.”
Tyrone Mings is available after suspension while Ross Barkley is also in contention after a hamstring injury and sitting out the trip to parent club Chelsea.
Villa are three points behind fourth-placed Everton with a game in hand as they mount a challenge for Europe having beaten relegation on the final day of last season.
Smith said: “I believe I can trust them fully, because I look at the squad at the moment, one player comes out of the team and another comes in and does well.
“There’s no player who’s going to want to go out there and be under their level, because that would let the team down, and there’s a great team unity at the moment.
“They know if they do that they are not going to get back in the team, so I’ve got full trust in them.
“We’ll prepare for the game like we have all the rest of them. We get a day’s more preparation time ahead of this game I think, in theory.
“Manchester United is probably one of the first fixtures all the players look for, but we had a good result up there last season and we feel we’re in a better place than we were last season, but we know the talent United have got.”
Get the best features, fun and footballing frolics straight to your inbox every week.
Thank you for signing up to Four Four Two. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.