Premier League Matchday 22: Midweek match previewsJan 17 | 7 min read
Dean Smith urges Aston Villa to keep improving against Barrow
Villa lost their opening Premier League game of the season at Watford but returned to winning ways against Newcastle on Saturday.
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith will be hoping Tuesday’s Carabao Cup second-round trip to Barrow can be another step to getting his side to the top of their game.
A Danny Ings bicycle kick and Anwar El Ghazi penalty saw Villa run out 2-0 winners over Newcastle on Saturday.
That followed an opening-day defeat to newly-promoted Watford as Smith continues to balance his side after a unique off-season.
While he still has a number of players sidelined, Smith is likely to give his fringe players a run-out at Holker Street as he juggles a squad at different stages of readiness.
“It’s going to take time for a lot of teams to find their feet,” he said.
“We had a rush last year with the Euros, Copa America, Olympics so it’s been a staggered pre-season through the pandemic for a lot of clubs.
“Unfortunately, players are at different levels in terms of their fitness.
“Saturday was a building block to where we need them to be. But it’s a building block in the right direction because it was better than last week – although it didn’t take much to be better than the first half last week.”
Ollie Watkins is again likely to be absent with the knee injury which has ruled him out of the two opening Premier League fixtures.
While the England forward could return against former club Brentford at the weekend, midfielder Bertrand Traore will not feature until after the international break due to a hamstring issue.
Summer signing Leon Bailey could start at Barrow, however, having played just half an hour since his arrival from Bayer Leverkusen.