Roberto di Matteo: Aston Villa will finish in Championship top six, insists manager

Roberto di Matteo was appointed by new Chinese owners Tony Xia as Villa manager in June
Roberto di Matteo was appointed by new Chinese owners Tony Xia as Villa manager in June

Aston Villa manager Roberto di Matteo has given his players a confidence boost by insisting that they will finish in the Championship's top six.

Relegated Villa have drawn seven of their 10 league games this season, including their past five.

It has left them just two points above the Championship relegation zone.

But Di Matteo is happy at their general form and is looking the other way up the table, pointing out: "We are only seven points behind sixth place."

Villa travel to Preston North End for the first time in 42 years on Saturday, followed by a home derby against Wolves on 15 October.

The Italian told BBC WM: "I believe that this team will be in the top six at the end of the season. That is the confidence I have, that the team has, that we will be up there.

"Who knows where, but we will be up in the top six."

Villa might have been a lot higher had they hung on to leads in three of their five successive draws, against Nottingham Forest, Brentford and Barnsley.

But they came from behind to claim a point against Championship title favourites Newcastle United last weekend.

Grealish call-up

Meanwhile, midfielder Jack Grealish has been included in the England Under-21 squad for the forthcoming games against Kazakhstan, and at home to Bosnia and Herzegovina at Walsall (11 October, 15:00 GMT).

Grealish missed the Newcastle game, after being suspended and fined following a club investigation into his part in an all-night party at a Birmingham hotel.

But he was back for the midweek trip to face Barnsley at Oakwell, where he played the full 90 minutes.

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