Dean Smith: Aston Villa are wary of Aaron Connolly
Villa manager says Brighton and Ireland striker is ‘a player with huge potential’
Aaron Connolly in action during Ireland’s defeat to Switzerland. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Connolly exploded on to the scene before the international break as he marked his first Premier League start with a stunning double in Albion’s 3-0 victory over Tottenham.
The 19-year-old, who made his Republic of Ireland debut against Georgia last week, was already on Smith’s radar, having led the line for an hour in Brighton’s defeat by Villa in the Carabao Cup third round.
Smith said: “We’ll have to watch out for him. He played in the Carabao Cup game as well against us, so we’ve seen him firsthand.
“He’s a player with huge potential, he’s certainly hit the ground running with his first start and two goals against the Champions League finalists.
“Our defenders will know enough about him certainly for the game on Saturday.”
Last month’s meeting between the sides saw both Smith and Brighton counterpart Graham Potter make wholesale changes, so the Villa boss does not anticipate the result to have any bearing on this weekend’s contest.
Smith said: “Hopefully the outcome will be the same but we changed nine players for that game and they changed 11. It will be a different set of players that are playing against each other.”