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Clean bill of health & full steam ahead

Aston Villa Manager looks ahead to playoffs.

Queens Park Rangers v Aston Villa - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

“The tough part now is picking a team and a matchday 18. That’s when you have to upset people. But I’m used to doing that as a Head Coach. I’d rather they were upset than happy about being left out.”

Aston Villa Manager Dean Smith acknowledging the challenge of picking from a healthy squad — with only Nyland being unavailable. Chester, Abraham, Mings, Haute — the whole gang is ready. And that means some are going to miss out of the 18 — let along the starting 11. But this is the kind of decision that managers are tasked with — and Smith was comfortable in his pre-match press conference with the decision making process, “I’ve got a team in mind, so I’ll sit down with my coaches and pick it with them.”

I’m not even going to guess here on what the 11 will be — we likely know 8 of them — the decisions being Mings’ partner, Hourihane v Whelan, and Adomah v Green. The players left out of the latter two being likely subs in the second half.

The players know there are decisions to be made and, according to Smith, are training like it — “Everything has been as normal as possible. Sessions have been really good and we’ve been at the intensity I want. The players are all playing to get a shirt this weekend, which is what you want.” The raised level of competition with all the healthy players can only help push players — especially with the veteran leaders able to keep the competition healthy and not negative.

Smith told the press he is excited. Me? I’m nervous. The excitement will come in time — but right now the nerves are winning.