IVAN TONEY believes Brentford’s strength in depth has been the key component in helping them navigate their way through the festive period ahead of their 2022 opener against Aston Villa.

Brentford rounded off the year with a 1-0 defeat to reigning Premier League champions and current league leaders Manchester City on Wednesday.

That result means the Bees sit 14th in the league table on 20 points after 18 games in their first top-flight campaign in over 70 years, nine points above the relegation zone.

Sunday’s opponents Aston Villa lie just two spots above Brentford on 22 points and both teams will want to push towards the top half when they meet at the Brentford Community Stadium.

Like all clubs, Brentford have been affected by the ongoing Covid-19 crisis and injuries in recent weeks, with Toney proud of how they’ve coped ahead of their meeting against Villa.

The 25-year-old said: “From the starters to the subs we have quality all over the field.

“We’re missing some main players but the other boys came in and did great.

“It’s not just quality though - it’s wanting to work hard and knowing your job when you get in the team, and they did both.

“Everyone is always ready for the opportunity to play and the players who came in did well, but when we get everyone back we have a great squad and we can compete at the highest level.”

Brentford have lost three of their last five matches in the league but so have Villa, with new manager Steven Gerrard having faced some tough tests in his first management job in England.

And hitman Toney added: “Now it’s Villa and we want to finish as high as possible.

“We take things game by game. It would be a great achievement to stay in the Premier League and hopefully we can finish in the top half.”