Aston Villa manager Dean Smith has offered his opinion on the upcoming all-English UEFA Champions League final, as well as sharing his own club’s European ambitions.
The midweek Champions League fixtures saw Chelsea overpower 13-time winners Real Madrid to set up a final showdown with fellow ‘Big Six’ rivals Manchester City, the Premier League champions-elect seeing off Paris Saint-Germain to reach a maiden showpiece in Europe’s elite competition.
The clash, that is set to take place on 26 May, will be the second time in three seasons that the Champions League final has been contested by two English sides, the 2019 final having seen Liverpool overcome Tottenham Hotspur to claim their sixth major European title.
With Manchester United also securing their place in the Europa League final following their 8-5 aggregate victory over AS Roma, it would appear to be a dominant period for the Premier League in European competition.
According to Villa boss Smith, that English continental success is a marker of the ‘strength’ of the nation’s top sides and the domestic league as a whole, while he also admitted his side have their own ambitions to qualify for Europe, the Villans having previously won the European Cup back in 1982.
“It shows the strength of the Premier League, the strength of the sides,” Smith told his pre-match press conference.
“The Champions League final is between the two best squads in the league, if not in Europe. Manchester United, who are in the Europa League final, are probably the third best squad.
“The aim of this football club is to compete in European competition. Our owners want that.”
The 50-year-old also spoke of his club’s aim to promote its young stars, the current campaign having already seen the likes of teenager Jacob Ramsey make an impact on the first-team.
“Our academy has progressed really well and we have a good youth team and good under-23 players. There will be a time and a place to bring those in.
“We’re looking to work with the young players and improve them. The vision of our owners is to have academy players come through into the first team.”