Belfast Telegraph

We'll be "in the mix" at end of season vows Aston Villa boss Roberto Di Matteo

Aston Villa boss Roberto Di Matteo has called for patience and vowed they will challenge for promotion.

The Italian has won just one of his first eight Sky Bet Championship games in charge to leave Villa 11 points adrift of early leaders Huddersfield.

They host Newcastle on Saturday with both sides having been relegated from the Premier League last season although the Magpies are third, four points behind the Terriers.

Villa have dropped nine points from winning positions already and conceded four times in the last five minutes of games to sit 18th.

Their summer net spend was £34million as they rebuilt a team which won just three times last season and, despite their outlay, Di Matteo insisted it will take time to arrest the club's decline.

"I agree. It's going to take the time that it takes. It would be helpful for us if we had more points," he said.

"The ambition for us is to try to get promoted. A lot of teams have this ambition as well. I am confident after 46 games we will still be in the mix.

"Naturally you're going to look at the three teams who are relegated - you will always put them at the top for a start.

"And then there will always be surprises. It's early on. There's another 38 games to go. It's a long road."

Di Matteo is also waiting for the end of a club investigation into Jack Grealish after reports the midfielder partied into the early hours at a Birmingham hotel following last weekend's 0-0 draw at Ipswich meaning the midfielder may be dropped from the squad.

Newcastle beat Wolves 2-0 in the EFL Cup on Tuesday to gain revenge following their 2-0 defeat by Walter Zenga's side in the league which ended their five-game winning run and midfielder Mohamed Diame believes their trip to Villa Park is key.

"This is a massive game against Aston Villa and an important one for our season. Good players like to be involved in these games," he said.

"It'll remind us of playing in the Premier League and what it's like to play at big stadiums away from home. If we can get a lot of work done before December that's really important."

Leaders Huddersfield go to Reading with boss David Wagner having won six of his eight league games this season but the German expects eighth-placed Reading to be their toughest task yet.

"We know we have to invest more (into the game) than we ever did before, we have to get all our details right to be a competitor . I know the squad is full of confidence, they have trust, self believe and they have every reason to be confident," he told the HTTV.

Should the Terriers lose Norwich will go top if they beat Burton at home while Barnsley, in fourth, go to seventh-placed Brighton aiming to close the four-point gap to the top.

Fifth-placed Birmingham go to QPR on a four-match unbeaten run and Fulham could climb into the top six if they beat Bristol City. Elsewhere, Sheffield Wednesday host Nottingham Forest, Leeds welcome Ipswich and Brentford travel to Wolves.

At the bottom, Cardiff go to fellow strugglers Rotherham having lost their last four games and second-bottom Blackburn head to Derby after winning their first league game of the season against Rotherham last weekend.


From Belfast Telegraph