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Parkinson: Aston Villa will be "ones to watch" in play-offs

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Aston Villa will be the team in form for this season’s play-offs, says Phil Parkinson.

Beaten by Fulham in the Wembley showpiece last year and rocked by financial issues and a change of owner, it has been a testing 12 months for the Midlanders.

But Parkinson believes Dean Smith’s side have timed their run right this time around – even though he will be doing his best to provide a tricky hurdle at the UniBol this afternoon.

“Eight wins on the bounce tells its own story, doesn’t it?” he said. “They are in a great run of form but they have always had talent in the side, a sprinkling of Premier League quality in the team.

“Dean has got them going and they have some real momentum heading into the play-offs. I think they are five points inside the top six, so I don’t think they’ll drop out.

“In fact, I think they will be the team to fear when it comes down to it.”

Wanderers lost 2-0 at Villa Park in November– a performance which Parkinson still believes was better than the result suggested.

The current side arguably present a more difficult proposition but the man who orchestrated that victory earlier in the season – Jack Grealish – looks to have timed his return from injury just perfectly to feature against Bolton.

“They have been playing 4-3-3 for most of the season and they have some top players,” he said. “Grealish missed last week but he’s such a talent you’d expect him to be back in, Tammy Abraham is at the top of the pitch causing problems.

“They had a slow start after the play-off final last year, which can explain a few problems. There was a bit of turmoil there after a change of ownership but they are a club who are expected to be up there and they are certainly in the mix.”

New ownership could also be good news for Luca Connell, the bright young hope of the Wanderers camp.

Parkinson said earlier this week that the midfielder – who turns 18 on Saturday – would be open to discussing a new contract if the club could show it was more stable off the field.

And after things took a positive step this week with the arrival of Laurence Bassini, the Bolton boss is looking forward to seeing how things develop.

“We would love to keep Luca, everyone at the club would,” he said. “He has had a taste of first-team football now and adapted really well. He’s refreshing to work with and when the new ownership has officially come in and been able to assess things, I’m sure there will be talks between him, Luca, his agent and his parents.”


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