Dean Smith relishing play-off drama


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Aston Villa boss Dean Smith insists his side should not be regarded as favourites when they take on West Brom in the Championship play-off semi-finals.

Villa were the form team in the last two months of the regular season, winning 10 games in a row to surge up from 11th in the table in early March to finish fifth, although they did draw with Leeds United in their penultimate match before losing at home to Norwich City on Sunday.

In contrast the Baggies have lost three of their last seven matches under the caretaker charge of James Shan who stepped in when Darren Moore was axed two months ago.

“I’m excited, to be honest,” said former Walsall and Brentford boss Smith, who succeeded Steve Bruce as Villa boss in October 2018.

“They’re two big games against local rivals. We’ve got a full squad available to us and we’re playing well at the moment. We’re really looking forward to the challenge.

“They’re two difficult games. I know there’s a lot of people out there saying we’re favourites, but Albion have been above us all season. For me, they’re the favourites and it’s about us trying to spoil their party.”

Villa drew 2-2 at The Hawthorns in December but Albion secured a 2-0 victory when the two teams met at Villa Park two months later. Smith has a fully-fit squad to choose from apart from goalkeeper Orjan Nyland.

Aston Villa are 2.00 to beat West Brom in Saturday’s first leg while Smith’s side are available at 2.75 to be promoted this season, three years after they were relegated from the Premier League.

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