By Graham Hill
DEAN Smith may be affording himself a quiet smile now that Villa are in the play-offs.
But he still faces a balancing act in the remaining two games of the season.
And he still faces a dilemma as to which kind of side to send out against Leeds and Norwich.
The two games could not be more contrasting. Leeds are still desperate not to miss out on a top two spot with Marcelo Bielsa’s stuttering badly in recent matches.
But Norwich should be promoted by the time they come to Villa Park with a party atmosphere likely next month.
Villa still have work to do though. And Smith will be wondering whether he should rest some of his key men with the play-offs in mind.
It has been a gruelling two months for Villa who have had to overcome injuries and absentees.
But with John McGinn still walking a bookings tightrope, Smith may decided to give him a rest.
Two more yellow cards means a three match ban and the Villa boss cannot afford to take that risk.
And how about Jack Grealish? The Villa skipper continues to be the most fouled player in the division and one bad challenge could sideline him for the play-offs.
Smith is already talking about Tammy Abraham not playing at Leeds on Sunday after injuring his shoulder at Bolton and missing the Millwall game.
And, for once, his goalscoring ability will not be needed until the play-offs are under way.
But there are two factors to consider here.
If Smith sends out a second string at Leeds, he will be accused of affecting the promotion race.
Sheffield United are likely to have something to say about that if Leeds win and Villa are without their star men.
And there is the question of moments. If Villa simply carry on playing as they have been and win the last two games, that would give them a huge boost going into what looks like a semi-final clash with West Brom.
Villa’s top six place six may be assured but Smith has plenty to think about between now and then.