By Alex McLeish

1st Jan, 2021 | 8:00am

'These Are Massive Words...' - Exclusive: Hutton reveals what has really changed at Aston Villa

Aston Villa have a real chance of finishing in a European spot this season, and it’s all down to Dean Smith finding the perfect attack-defence balance. 

That is the view of ex-Villa man Alan Hutton, speaking exclusively to Football Insider correspondent Adam Williams after their 1-1 draw at Stanford Bridge on Monday night.

It was a point which lifted them into 5th place, and a victory in their next match could see them climb into the Champions League places.

Hutton lauded manager Dean Smith for instilling a defensive confidence so uncharacteristic of the Villa side last season which conceded the second-most goals in the division and beat the drop by a single point on the final day.

It has given them the confidence to challenge teams at the other end of the pitch, he told Football Insider: “The manager believes in them and it’s given them that confidence to go out to any team and say ‘we’re gonna take you on.’

“They’re going out and challenging teams at the top end of the table.

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“Their one major problem last year was goals conceded. They were conceding a lot of goals from crosses, from open play in general. They were leaving themselves wide open.

“I think now they’re starting to find a balance between playing defensively well and then attacking. So they’re a well-balanced team at the moment

“And ‘confidence,’ ‘momentum,’ these are massive words in football, and that’s what they’ve got at the moment. They’ve got a settled side and they all believe in each other.

“The way they’re playing? Of course they’ve got a realistic chance of getting into Europe.”

Dean Smith has already spoken about his ambitions with the club, telling the Express and Star earlier in December: “We want to try and mirror what Leicester City did in winning the title and Wolves getting into Europe. Those are our ambitions and our aims.”

If they were to qualify for Europe, it would their first continental campaign since the 2010-11 season.

In other news, a legendary former Aston Villa striker has encouraged one of the club’s hottest prospects to leave the club in January.