Aston Villa boss Dean Smith expects home advantage to return when fans are back in the ground ahead of his side’s clash with Manchester United who are unbeaten away this campaign
- Aston Villa have won more games away than at Villa Park so far this season
- Their opponents have gone the season unbeaten away from Old Trafford
- Dean Smith expects home advantage to return when fans are in the grounds
- He has also confirmed they hope to keep goalkeeper Tom Heaton next season
Villa have won only six times at their own ground this season compared to eight away victories and it’s a pattern repeated throughout the league with today’s opponents Manchester United unbeaten away despite losing four times at Old Trafford. Only three previous teams have been unbeaten away through a top-flight season – Preston (1889) and Arsenal (2002 and 2004).
‘This season has been like other. There is a neutrality of every venue,’ said Smith. ‘As much as we want to make Villa Park our home, without supporters in it’s not.
Aston Villa have won more games away than at Villa Park in the Premier League this season
Dean Smith says he expects home advantage will return when fans are back in the grounds
‘It’s the same elsewhere. For example, I certainly believe Sheffield United have suffered an awful lot not having fans in their stadium. That has been seen across the board.
‘Once the fans are in, it’ll change. I have been there as a fan sucking the ball into the Holte End. I know how important it can be.’
Before this weekend’s fixtures there had been 126 away wins in the Premier League this season compared to 120 at home – the first time there has ever been that imbalance.
Smith will be hoping for better luck with VAR today than their last meeting against United when Bruno Fernandes scored the opening goal from the penalty spot after appearing to trip himself up when challenged by Ezri Konsa.
‘We have had two poor decisions go against us with United and I think they cost us results,’ he said. ‘In the last game, we’d just hit the post when they got the first goal from a very disputed penalty before they ended up battering us 3-0.’
Villa’s No2 goalkeeper Tom Heaton has been linked with a move back to United where he started his career but Smith confirmed his club are in talks to try and keep him.
Manchester United could become the first team since 2004 to go a season unbeaten away from home
‘Tom’s contract is up at the end of the season and our sporting director is dealing with that at the moment,’ said Smith.
‘I give my feelings to the board about the players and then they go and deal with that.
‘Tom won’t want to be seen as a number two. It is a challenge we have at the club because we have two high-class goalkeepers. Emi Martinez also wants to play every game.’