REUTERS: Aston Villa boss Dean Smith believes Sunday's opponents Southampton are a team on the rise that have only improved since the Premier League returned from its COVID-19 hiatus and much of that is thanks to their strike duo of Danny Ings and Che Adams.
Southampton have only lost three games since the restart in June and sit seventh in the standings after handing league leaders Everton their first loss of the season last weekend.
Ings and Adams have led the line for Ralph Hasenhuettl's side in all six games this season and have six goals and four assists between them.
"They've got goals in the team with Danny Ings and Che Adams, two strikers that can stretch the game and we have to be wary of their strengths," Smith told reporters on Friday.
"They've got a really good systematic approach that works for them. We'll have to be at our best.
"They were good against Everton last week and had a really good comeback against Chelsea (in a 3-3 draw) the week before as well. They've been a team that you can look at since 'Project Restart' that have been really strong, solid and reliable."
Villa's perfect start to the season ended with a 3-0 loss to Leeds United last week but Smith said they will not dwell on their poor second-half performance when they conceded all three goals against the promoted side.
However, Smith added it would give their benched players the motivation to fight for a spot in the starting lineup.
"We've started the season really well and had a 40-minute blip against Leeds," Smith added.
"I'm sure the players who haven't been in the starting lineup will smell a little bit of blood and want to get into that starting lineup. Everyone who was fit for Leeds is fit for Sunday."
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)