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Johnson Ready To Pit His Wits With Benitez

Lee Johnson says he is excited about facing Champions League-winning managers in his next two home games – but insists he and his players can’t be overawed by the challenge ahead.

The Bristol City head coach pits his wits against Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle United on Saturday (3pm), before hosting Aston Villa, managed by Roberto Di Matteo a week later.

In an upbeat mood, Johnson joked, in comparison to his opposite numbers, that he won the FA Trophy as a player.

He told Bristol City Player HD: “It’s fantastic that, after just four years in management and coaching, I’ll get to pit my wits against these guys who have won the Champions League.

“It means I have to work even harder to get inside their heads, to prepare my players for the challenge. We were tested against Norwich City in midweek and fared well, and Newcastle is the next step.

“We have to believe we’re on a par with Newcastle. Of course they’ve spent a lot more money on their squad, but we’re in the same league as them. It’s still early but at the moment we’re above them in the table and that’s how we want it to stay.”

Offering an update on the injury front, Johnson confirmed Derrick Williams’ absence from recent squads has been down to a shoulder injury.

Elsewhere, Frank Fielding and Korey Smith are making good progress after ankle surgery.

Joel Ekstrand, the former Watford defender, continues to train with the team.