Aston Villa boss Dean Smith has warned his players to beware a Fulham backlash as his side bid to maintain their promising start to the season at Craven Cottage on Monday.
Smith was impressed with the fortitude shown by Scott Parker’s men in last week’s defeat to Leeds and believes they will have targeted the Villa game as one crucial to their survival prospects.
Smith said: “Scott will be looking at our game, I think, and eyeing it as an opportunity to get three points.
“I thought they played very well against Leeds. They went 4-1 down and made a sterling job of coming back and nearly got back into it in the end.
“We know what it’s like coming up after play-off success. You have a short time to actually celebrate getting up and getting the team ready for the start of the season.”
Smith senses a renewed optimism around the club as they head to south-west London looking to stretch their current unbeaten run to eight games.
And the mood brightened further after the comprehensive midweek Carabao Cup win at Bristol City, in which new signing Bertrand Traore signalled his arrival with a stunning goal in a 3-0 win.
Smith added: “It’s only early stages, we’ve only had one Premier League game and a couple of Carabao Cup games.
“We’ve started well and what Thursday night gave me was certainly a lot of food for thought.
“The players who hadn’t played in the first Premier League game all performed really well and showed me they’re pushing for places in the Premier League.
“The players who started against Sheffield United know they’re going to have to be on their toes to keep their shirts.”
Smith will bring back his big names after making wholesale changes for the clash with the Championship side, and has no new injury worries although Bjorn Engels (Achilles), Wesley and Tom Heaton (both knee) remain sidelined.