It’s been more than two weeks since Aston Villa last played in the Premier League, and on Tuesday night, they finally return to action when they take on Manchester City’s side.
Villa were forced to field an academy side for their FA Cup third round clash against Liverpool earlier this month, but have now got the majority of their first-team squad back.
And whilst the two to three weeks off might see a little bit of rust creep into their game, it could also have the opposite effect too.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference ahead of the City game, Smith revealed: “I don’t think we’ll be hamstrung by it at all. We’ll have a few players who’ve been affected by it, but we’ve also got a lot of players who’ve had a so-called winter break.
“Some of our players needed the rest, players like Jack Grealish and John McGinn who’ve been regularly away on international duty. Hopefully it’ll do them the world of good and we can come back fresh and firing.”
The likes of Grealish and McGinn in particular have been virtual ever-presents under Smith for more than a couple of years now, and the toll of having to play week-in and week-out must be huge.
Aside from the sheer physical exertions of having to play big games non-stop, the mental pressures and burden that it can put on a player is similarly seismic.
It’s exactly why this mini winter break that Villa have had could be the catalyst to ensuring they enjoy just as successful of a second-half of the campaign.
The lay-off may not bear fruit immediately against City tonight, but over the long run, Villa fans should see a team far more energised and able to keep up their intensity.
The Premier League this year has been one like no other. This mid-season rest has come at the perfect time for Villa as they look to maintain an incredible push for a European spot.