Dean Smith on Aaron Connolly as Aston Villa take on Brighton & Hove Albion

Dean Smith on Aaron Connolly as Aston Villa take on Brighton & Hove Albion

​Aston Villa manager Dean Smith has revealed that he is aware of Republic of Ireland forward Aaron Connolly as the former welcome Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday afternoon.

Connolly announced himself in the Premier League with a bang as he scored a brace in Brighton's 3-0 dramatic win over Tottenham - this match was the Irish youngster's debut match in topflight.

The 19-year-old made his international debut for the Republic of Ireland against Georgia and this has made him catch the eye of Smith who first experience the forward during Villa's win over Brighton in the third round of the Carabao Cup.

“We’ll have to watch out for him. He played in the Carabao Cup game as well against us, so we’ve seen him firsthand,” Smith said as quoted by the Irish Examiner. 

“He’s a player with huge potential, he’s certainly hit the ground running with his first start and two goals against the Champions League finalists.

“Our defenders will know enough about him certainly for the game on Saturday.”

The two sides went head to head in September where Brighton manager Graham Potter had made some drastic changes to the squad - this time around Smith believes his charges will do the business.

Smith said: “Hopefully the outcome will be the same but we changed nine players for that game and they changed 11. It will be a different set of players that are playing against each other.”

Brighton will go into this contest with much-deserved confidence after their shocker against Spurs in their last game before the international break.

The hosts Aston Villa will not only have homeground advantage on their side but they will also be boasting with equal confidence after they rubbished Norwich City 5-1 in their last outing.

Smith will be without the services of midfielder Jota who will be on the sidelines for a couple of weeks after a successful hernia operation.

However, there shouldn't be too much concern in the midfield for the boss as he has Zimbabwe international Marvelous Nakamba, John McGinn as well as Conor Hourihane who made his presence known against Norwich City at his disposal.

“This league can punish you in the flash of an eye," Smith added. 

“It would have been very easy for me to walk into the dressing room after the (Norwich win) and say, ‘right, I’ll see you on Friday’. No, it was, ‘keep to the plan. Sunday, Monday off, work Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday’.

“The players have done that and probably wanted a few more days off than I’ve given them but the work is there to be done still. We need to get better, we need to improve and we’re striving to do that in every training session.”  

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