West Ham U21 v Villa U21: Live audio/text commentary from 7pm
Gordon Cowans hopes his Villa side have reaped the benefits of a physically-demanding pre-season programme as they prepare for tonight's Barclays U21 Premier League opener at West Ham.
The claret and blues kick off their campaign against the Hammers tonight at Grays Athletic's Rush Green Stadium [kick-off 7pm].
A busy pre-season schedule saw Villa's U21s come up against four experienced non-league teams plus newly-promoted League Two outfit Newport County.
The young lions managed three wins from their five fixtures, including an incredible 8-2 victory over Hinckley last week.
Cowans knows his players have tougher assignments ahead but he reckons the warm-up games against senior opposition were valuable experiences.
"I'm sure West Ham will be a lot more difficult than the game against Hinckley," said the development coach.
"But we've had some very good games - games against men's teams - and so it has been good experience for the lads playing against men.
"They've got the streetwise nature, the physical side and they are men.
"Some of the players we faced down at Newport were 6ft plus and are big powerful lads.
"It teaches you that you've got to move the ball quickly otherwise you are going to get nailed."
Samir Carruthers and Graham Burke completed loan moves to MK Dons and Shrewsbury respectively last week but both are still eligible to play for Villa U21s.
Striker Michael Drennan is out of action with a foot injury.
Tune in at 7pm for live audio and text commentary from tonight's game.