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SMITH RELISHING BURTON CLASH

8 October 2015

League One's top two meet at the Banks's this weekend...

Walsall manager Dean Smith is relishing Saturday’s top-of-the-table League One clash against leaders Burton.

The Saddlers are in second place with 22 points, while Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s Brewers, who won the League Two title last term, are top on 25.

Both clubs are unbeaten in their last five league matches and have surprised many people by their impressive early-season form.

The Saddlers will leapfrog Burton on goal difference with a win - and Smith is anticipating an intriguing encounter between two high-flying teams.

“Walsall vs. Burton on an international weekend in October – no one would have predicted that it would be a top-of-the-table clash, would they?” said Smith.

“A lot of people would have looked at it and thought that these two clubs would be lower down in the league.

“But we’ve always had faith in ourselves. We feel we can compete in the top echelons in this league and Burton will feel the same.

“You always have to be wary of teams that have just come up. Momentum carries a lot of teams through and Burton have certainly got that.

“They’ve got a good squad of players and Jimmy has done tremendously well. They’ve not tasted adversity for a long time and they’ve got a winning mentality.

“It’s going to be a really tough game for us but an exciting one because everyone knows that it’s the top two clubs in League One.

"I'm looking forward to it."

Burton boss Hasselbaink is one of the highest profile managers in League One.

The 43-year-old played for Leeds, Chelsea, Middlesbrough and Charlton in England's top flight - scoring 127 Premier League goals - and was also capped 23 times by the Netherlands.

He succeeded Gary Rowett at the Pirelli Stadium in November 2014 and guided Burton to promotion from League Two as champions last season.

“To see someone of Jimmy’s calibre pop up at Burton was perhaps slightly unusual,” said Smith.

“Players of his calibre normally go straight in at a higher level but you’ve got to applaud him for going in at the sharp end first and trying to earn the right to manage at the top.

“He’s got an able assistant in David Oldfield, who was at West Brom with the U21s for years, and they appear to have a really good relationship.

“There has been a steady incline for Burton, coming up from non-league through Nigel Clough, and then Gary Rowett did a tremendous job there, too.

“Jimmy took over and got them promoted last season and has carried on the momentum into this season.

“We know we’ll have to be at our best as staff on the sidelines, and the team will have to perform on the pitch as well.”

Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge and right-back Jason Demetriou are away on international duty with the Philippines and Cyprus respectively.

Isaiah Osbourne is also out with a knee injury.

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