By Dominic Toner
Aston Villa manager Roberto Di Matteo believes that his side face a very tough task to secure a promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt.
The club are unknown to the Championship after spending nearly three decades in the top flight, but are now heading towards uncharted territory under the guidance of their new manager.
Villa were relegated following a wretched 2015/16 campaign in which they amassed one of the lowest points hauls in Premier League history.
But Di Matteo is convinced next season could be even tougher for the club.
“The Championship is a very tough league, we know it’s probably more difficult than the Premier league,” Di Matteo said, as quoted by the Daily Star.
“It has many, many former Premier League teams, they are looking to get back into the Premier League, like we do.”
Of the 24 teams lining up in the Championship next year only seven teams have never played in the top flight and they are Brentford, Brighton, Bristol City, Huddersfield, MK Dons, Preston and Rotherham.
Fellow relegated sides Norwich and Newcastle will be expected to challenge along with Brighton who missed out on promotion via the playoffs last season, despite finishing the season with 87 points.
Di Matteo has added former Reading manager Steve Clarke to be his assistant manager for the upcoming season and will be targeting an automatic promotion push.
Villa confirmed the signing of Reading midfielder Aaron Tshibola earlier this month as the club aim to strengthen their squad.
Di Matteo has also added £3million defender Tommy Elphick from Bournemouth alongside goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini to his squad.
The Midlands club conceded 76 goals and scored on 27 occasions last term as they were relegated into the second tier, but will be hoping their new defensive recruitments can steady them.
In other Aston Villa news, their fans have reacted on Twitter to Euro giants targeting the club’s players.