Brighton head coach Graham Potter feels his side may be coming up against the Premier League’s in-form player when they travel to face Jack Grealish and Aston Villa on Saturday.
Grealish shone during the recent international break and has been in fine form for Villa so far this season.
There had been a clamour for the 25-year-old to be included in Gareth Southgate’s England side and he grabbed the chance with both hands.
Now he is the talk of the town, Grealish will be expected to lead Villa to victory over the Seagulls, who head to the West Midlands with just one win from the opening eight league games.
“He’s a top player, we thought that when we played against him in the Championship (as Swansea boss), to be honest with you,” Potter said when asked about Grealish.
“The difference between Aston Villa in the Championship with Jack Grealish in and out of the team was quite considerable because he’s just a top player.
“I’ve always thought that and it’s nice that he’s showing it at the highest level in the Premier League and it’s nice that he’s showing it for England. Obviously we’re hoping he has an off day on Saturday.”
Potter also feels Villa’s own improvements on last season, where they survived relegation on the final day of the campaign, have helped Grealish flourish.
“Sometimes you’re in a team that is maybe down the bottom, you don’t get chance to show it as much,” added Potter.
“Aston Villa have taken steps forward as a team so obviously that helps him in that regard – he is higher up the pitch, he’s involved more and there are better players around him.
“I’ve been really impressed with them. I think they’ve invested really well in the summer, I think they’ve identified the areas where they were maybe not so strong and they’ve invested well.
“They’ve probably got one of the, if not the, best player in the league at the moment in Jack Grealish, so I think Dean Smith and the club have done a fantastic job.”
While Villa have no doubt improved, Brighton head into the weekend just three points clear of the relegation zone – but Potter is not looking for sympathy.
“We’re disappointed with the results we’ve got,” he said.
“We’re not happy about that and we’re fighting to change it – there’s one thing accepting it and there’s another thing not being passive about it, we have to try to improve.
“At the same time, our performances have been good but obviously we need to try and improve them to get the fine margins in our favour.
“We could quite easily be sat here with double-figures points and then the conversation is slightly different, but that’s not the case. There is no point feeling sorry for ourselves, this is the challenge we’ve got and (we need) to just stick together and and keep on, keep on fighting.”