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Dean Smith: 'Jack Grealish loves having a target on his back'

Dean Smith: 'Jack Grealish loves having a target on his back'
© Reuters
Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish is the most fouled player in the Premier League this term.

Aston Villa boss Dean Smith believes Jack Grealish is revelling in being a marked man.

The midfielder is the most fouled player in the Premier League this season.

Grealish is fouled an average of 4.6 times a game, ahead of Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha.

He was fouled 161 times – a league high – when Villa won promotion from the Sky Bet Championship last season but Smith feels his captain enjoys the attention.

"I think he gets targeted, there were five or six fouls against him at Chelsea (on Wednesday). It shows there's a target on him," he said, ahead of Sunday's visit of Leicester.

"It'll frustrate him if they continually do it and not get cautioned but he takes pleasure in the fact they want to kick him. He gets up and gets on with it.

"I knew he could do it in the Premier League. He made his debut in the Premier League, unfortunately Villa went down to the Championship and he had to spend a few years there.

"He excelled when he came back from injury last season, started scoring goals, assisting but also became the captain and leader. He has matured as a person and player. He is getting better and better."

Villa are a point above the relegation zone after Wednesday's 2-1 defeat at Chelsea.

Leicester have won their last seven top-flight games – a club record-equalling run – and sit second, eight points behind runaway leaders Liverpool.

But Smith vowed the in-form Foxes will have to be up for the fight on Sunday.

He said: "We'll certainly try (to end their run). They are on a fantastic run of form but we are at Villa Park, there aren't many teams who will come away from Villa Park and think they've had an easy game.

"We'll be up for it, our supporters will be up for it. We're ready and prepared to stop their run."

Anwar El Ghazi is back in contention after a knee injury but Jed Steer (Achilles) and Keinan Davis (hamstring) are out.

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