Aston Villa boss Dean Smith fears Watford striker Troy Deeney could again return to haunt his side.
Birmingham fan Deeney has scored five of Watford’s nine goals in the last three meetings between the two clubs, all won by the Hornets.
The 31-year-old netted Watford’s third in a 3-2 win at Villa Park in November 2015, and two goals in added time as they won by the same scoreline at Vicarage Road five months later – results that helped condemn Villa to the drop that season.
Deeney then grabbed another brace in Watford’s 3-0 victory over Villa at the end of last month.
Smith, who was a coach at Walsall where Deeney started his professional playing career, said: “I know him very well – and I noticed his Birmingham City tattoo on his calf very quickly!
“Hopefully we will deal with him a lot better than we did at their place because we didn’t defend him very well at all, but I can guarantee there will be a much better performance from Aston Villa against Watford tomorrow night.”
Smith, though, appreciates the remarkable career Deeney has had at Watford as he approaches his 10-year anniversary this summer.
“He has come a long way,” said Smith. “Watford signed him for half-a-million, and he’s been there ever since.
“He’s had ups and downs within his career but he’s bounced back every time, and he continues to do that. He epitomises the character and application to make it at the top.
“What I like about him is that he’s not really changed. That’s good to see. I like to see people as they were and he’s still like that, that’s for sure.”
When it was suggested to Smith that Deeney again posed a serious threat in a match that could be key to the survival hopes of both clubs, with 18th-placed Villa one point and one place below Watford, he said: “He can be, if we play like we did at Watford.
“If we play better than that, then hopefully not. It’s down to our players to be on the ball.”
Villa go into the game without a recognised striker for a fourth consecutive match as Wesley is out for the season with a knee injury, Keinan Davis has only just returned to training after three months out with a hamstring problem and Jonathan Kodjia has been sold to Qatari side Al-Gharafa for £2million.
The club’s £8.5million deal for Genk’s Tanzania international Mbwana Samatta is being held up by paperwork, although Smith claims the move is “very close”.
Answering queries as to why Kodjia has been allowed to leave without the deal for Samatta being completed, Smith said: “Because he wasn’t up to the standard in my opinion.
“He hadn’t got to the level of fitness that for me was required for the Premier League. That’s the minimum standard to play Premier League football.
“He didn’t have a pre-season due to the AFCON, then an injury followed. He’s had to work very hard to get to the levels, but due to Wesley playing he’s not had the minutes to get up to speed with games.
“Unfortunately, he wanted to move on and I was happy to let that happen.”
Smith has also allowed Croatia international goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic to join French Ligue 1 side Toulouse on loan until the end of the season.
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