By Amir Mir

Aston Villa manager Roberto Di Matteo has asked for his players to show passion ahead of their pre-season friendly against Middlesbrough on Saturday afternoon.

Passion was a word used many times at the Midlands club last season, but was not expressed on the pitch as the former European champions fell into the second-tier for the first time since 1987.

But, Di Matteo, who was appointed Villa boss this summer after Chinese Tycoon Tony Xia purchased the club for a reported £75 million, has asked his players to give the fans their money’s worth.

“I want the team to show the supporters we have passion,” said Di Matteo as quoted by the official Aston Villa twitter account. “And I am sure our supporters will be right behind us.”

The Midlands outfit will come up against Premier League opposition on Saturday afternoon as they take on Middlesbrough, with the club’s new signings expected to feature in their first game at Villa Park.

Italian youngster Pierluigi Gollini is expected to take the gloves, as defender Tommy Elphick lines up behind midfielder Aaron Tshibola. All three players signed for the club this summer on long-term contracts.

Di Matteo, a Champions League winning manager, was interested to see how the team copes with higher league opposition as they aim to stamp their style on the game.

“It’s a pre-season friendly where we are looking to bed down our principles of play and looking how far we have come with that,” said Di Matteo

Villa have remained unbeaten during pre-season with five wins to their name, most notably against French side Nantes, as Di Matteo and his backroom staff prepare for the forthcoming Championship season.

In other Aston Villa team news, manager Roberto Di Matteo has this message for a recently departed Villa flop.