Hasenhüttl: Villa have improved significantly


Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhüttl is anticipating an intense game tonight against an Aston Villa team that he believes has significantly improved in quality this season.

Like Saints, Dean Smith's side have enjoyed a strong first half of the campaign, with both clubs on 29 points in the standings and establishing themselves much further up the Premier League table than they were at the same point last term.

Hasenhüttl highlighted the summer signings made by Villa as a big factor in their improvement, as they added some key pieces around Jack Grealish.

"Most impressive have been the signings for me, because they were definitely perfect," he said. "In every position, they are now much better.

"It's always difficult for a team when you can focus on Grealish and that's it, on one player to focus it's never good for a team when you can do this.

"But now it's not so easy anymore, because you have Traore on the left, you have Watkins in front, you have Barkley. You have so much quality now and this makes it more difficult to defend against them.

"It is important that you are even more disciplined and we have shown that we can do it, yes, but we need to have a perfect game for us."

Saints produced close to that when the teams met at Villa Park earlier in the season, going 4-0 up before surviving a late comeback from the hosts to win 4-3, and the manager is hopeful of an equally clinical performance in front of goal this time.

"Like always, we want to find the right balance and the right gameplan and then bring the best players in the best positions to score," said Hasenhüttl, who is welcoming Ryan Bertrand back from suspension for the game, as well as having Oriol Romeu and Moussa Djenepo joining Nathan Redmond in a return to fitness.

"I think we did it fantastically in the last game against them. Three set-pieces, but the fourth goal was also perfect transition from behind. We showed that we can play some good football and this is what we want to do again.

"I think we had also chances where we missed, but the set-pieces were fantastic and every time when they stepped up a little bit then we killed them with the next goal and this was one of our best performances so far this season.

"But, although we have won against them now three times when we have played against them, we know that this side is also getting better and better, they have made good progress and for us it's important that we fight back to the way we played before all the injuries happened and this is the key for this game and the goal for the future now.

"It will be intense, because we are also a team that likes to play very intense. Especially at home we have this season some really good results.

"Except for the last game at home where we were a little bit struggling with the defensive work, I think we have also showed it is hard to score against us and this is what we need in this game."