Smith backs Reina to help Villa avoid relegation from Premier League

Boss Dean Smith has backed Pepe Reina to help lead Aston Villa to safety.

Former Liverpool goalkeeper Reina is expected to make his debut at Brighton on Saturday.

He joined on loan from AC Milan for the rest of the season earlier this week after watching Sunday’s 6-1 humbling against Manchester City.

Villa are third bottom in the Premier League having lost six of their last nine top flight games but Smith feels Reina can have an instant impact.

He said: “Pepe Reina’s experience tells you he’s going to be respected in that dressing room straight away.

“He’s a World Cup winner (with Spain in 2010) and Danny Drinkwater has won the Premier League before.

“So the two players we’ve brought in already have vast experience of this league.

“Danny hasn’t played so much in the last couple of years because his game time has been limited and Pepe has been abroad playing in Italy. But what they do is bring experience.”

Orjan Nyland has been deputising after Tom Heaton’s season-ending knee injury on New Year’s Day.

Reina has played just once for AC Milan this term – a 2-1 win at Genoa in October – but Smith is confident he will be able to handle the Premier League again.

“I wouldn’t have brought anybody in with 16 matches to go if I didn’t feel they could play straight away,” he said.

“Looking at the way he performs in training and listening to him speak – not a problem. He’s probably just what we need in the dressing room at the moment.

“His experience tells you all you need to know – he’s a World Cup winner. He’s got an air about him. He knows what he’s about. He certainly won’t accept fools, that’s for sure.”

Villa are close to signing Mbwana Samatta from Genk for around £8.5million to ease their striker crisis, with Wesley out for the season with a serious knee injury.

The Tanzania international needs to secure a work permit but, ahead of his arrival, Smith wants any new recruits to understand the culture of the club.

He said: “I remember Sir Alex Ferguson talking about wanting to talk about playing in front of 70,000 fans.

“It’s no different here. We’re guaranteed 42,000 each week, sold out at Villa Park every time we play there. They’ve got to handle that. Part of that criteria we look at is players who can handle that.”