Dean Smith adamant West Brom are favourites in play-off clash
Villa host West Brom on Saturday before Tuesday’s return leg at The Hawthorns.
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith has moved to shift the pressure off his side and claimed West Brom are favourites in their promotion showdown.
The Baggies head to Villa Park for the first leg of their Sky Bet Championship play-off semi final on Saturday.
Albion beat Villa 2-0 away and drew 2-2 at home during the regular season to finish fourth, a place and four points above Villa.
Smith’s side won a club record 10 straight games to rocket into the top six after looking like they were going to miss out.
But Smith insists the Baggies are the team to beat ahead of their Villa Park meeting.
He told a press conference: “It is going to be a difficult game against West Brom, I know several pundits out there are saying we will be the favourites, but West Brom have been above us all season.
“They are the ones who came down from the Premier League and have a squad of Premier League players.
“We have yet to beat them this season, so for me I think they are the favourites and we are looking forward to spoiling their party.
“All we can concentrate on is ourselves. I have heard people talk already saying Villa think they are at Wembley already. Far from it.
“We have only ever taken one game at a time. West Brom have been in the play-offs a lot longer than we have.”
Smith is likely to recall John McGinn, Tammy Abraham and Jack Grealish who were all rested for the final day 2-1 defeat to champions Norwich.
Villa lost the play-off final 1-0 to Fulham last season having been relegated from the Premier League in 2016.
Smith replaced Steve Bruce in October and underlined promotion always remained the goal.
“When I first came in here, I said our remit was to get promoted. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to get anywhere near being in the first two,” he added.
“We managed to get in the top six, so we have to go down the play-off route.”