The Potters forward, whose side faces Villa away this weekend, thinks Dean Smith was the catalyst in the previously ailing team now showing their qualities.

Stoke City striker Saido Berahino has suggested that Aston Villa’s appointment of Dean Smith was a crucial moment in turning their season round.

On 3 October, the Villans parted ways with former manager Steve Bruce after winning only one of their prior nine Championship matches.

Villa were 12th in the table at the time of Bruce’s sacking, having drawn 3-3 with then bottom club Preston North End the day earlier.

Smith was appointed a week later and, following a shaky October, Villa enjoyed a superb November, winning three of their four fixtures.

December has also brought joy to the West Midlands club so far as two difficult hurdles were overcome, with a great 3-0 triumph at Middlesbrough followed up by a 2-2 draw at Berahino’s former club West Bromwich Albion.

Gary Rowett’s Potters travel to Villa Park on Saturday and, ahead of the game against the Championship’s eight-placed side, praised the impact that Smith has had on his side’s next opponents.

“They have shown their qualities since Dean Smith went in there,” Berahino told the Stoke Sentinel. “They’ve been a threat going forward and have also defended really well.

“I watched their game (the 2-2 draw at West Brom) and they were brilliant, but we have to find their weaknesses.

“We know what they are about going forward, but we have to find those weaknesses and try to exploit them.”

Stoke go into the Villa game on the back of an eight-game unbeaten run which includes a solid 2-1 win over Derby County achieved with ten men.

In other news, Report: Leeds the only club to bid for £18m target; European exit could be crucial