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First team

Defender Ake targets Villa Park clean sheet

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Defender Nathan Ake insists the Cherries must prioritise keeping a clean sheet as they attempt to spoil the Aston Villa party.

Eddie Howe’s team will be the first visitors to Villa Park since the Midlanders regained their place in the Premier League after winning the Championship play-off final.

A packed house of more than 40,000 – including around 2,500 travelling supporters – will be hoping to see their respective teams record a first win in the top flight this season.

The Villans, the Cherries’ first Premier League opponents in August 2015, surrendered an early lead before going down 3-1 at Tottenham on the opening day.

Howe’s men were also pegged back with Chris Mepham’s effort against Sheffield United cancelled out by Billy Sharp’s late leveller at Vitality Stadium.

Since joining the Cherries on a permanent basis two years ago, Ake has featured in all 77 games in the Premier League, keeping 16 clean sheets in the process.

And the Netherlands international knows the best way to frustrate Dean Smith’s team in front of their own fans would be to try to add to the tally.

Asked by afcb.co.uk whether an early goal would silence a partisan home crowd, Ake replied: “Maybe but I think the main thing is to try to keep a clean sheet and then hopefully we will get chances to score.

“We know they are a good team and they have bought a lot of good players. We know we are going to be in for a tough game but they are all tough in the Premier League.

“The stadium will be packed and they will try to make it difficult for us. But we have had a whole week to prepare and will be ready for it.”

Villa spent around £125 million on 12 new players in the summer, including buying defender Tyrone Mings from the Cherries following his impressive loan spell during the second half of last season.

Eight points adrift of the top six with 12 games remaining, the Villans embarked on a club-record run of 10 victories and saw off West Brom and Derby in the play-offs to book their place in the top flight.

Discussing Mings, Ake said: “He signed before I came here and suffered a bad injury. It was difficult for him but I think everyone could see what a good player he was.

“He was unfortunate with injuries but this was a good move for him. I think he will play a lot of games and you could see how well he did in the Championship for them. The fans love him there and I’m really happy for him.”

The Cherries will be hoping to repeat their heroics of 2015/16 when goals from Steve Cook and Joshua King (pictured above) earned them a 2-1 win at Villa Park which secured their top-flight status.

Discussing the 1-1 draw with Sheffield United, Ake said: “To concede so late was hard to take and we thought we were going to get away with it.

“It was good to go ahead, especially as we didn’t play too well. We tried to keep a clean sheet but, unfortunately, we conceded a sloppy free-kick which led to their goal. We should have dealt with it better.”

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