Aston Villa: Jack Grealish return delights Dean Smith as late European push begins

Jack Grealish is set to return for Aston Villa this weekend to help the club in their late-season push for a place in Europe next term.

The captain has been out injured since February, suffering from a shin problem, but returned to training this week ahead of Villa’s hosting of Fulham in the Premier League on Sunday.

That is welcome news for coach Smith, with the 10th-placed club having won just one of their six games in the midfielder’s absence.

“He trained all week, he’s only had a few sessions but seems fit enough and has certainly put himself up for selection,” Smith said.

“The performances over the last six weeks haven’t been what they were previously. If anyone loses a player of the calibre of Jack you are going to struggle a bit. It will be a big boost for everyone to have Jack back.

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“Any team would be different with Jack in it, just like Tottenham would be different without Harry Kane. That’s how football is sometimes – you have players who are exceptional talents and Jack is one of them. We have certainly missed him when he’s not been there.”

The injury forced Grealish to miss England’s World Cup qualifiers over the last two weeks, but Smith believes it will not cost him a place in the Three Lions’ Euro 2020 squad this summer.

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“Fortunately I don’t have that decision to make, but I’d be very surprised if he wasn’t in the Euros squad,” Smith said. “When people come to choose the player of the season this year he will be mentioned.”

Wesley is closing in on a return, having been sidelined for 15 months with a knee injury, while Kortney Hause is available after a foot problem.

Struggling Fulham are unbeaten in their last eight top-flight away games and Smith is wary of the battling Cottagers.

“It will certainly be a very different game [to Villa’s 3-0 win in September],” Smith said. “Looking at the last game they played and when we played them earlier in the season, there are only five players who started that game against us.

“It’s going to be very different. I believe they’re a good team and a team that’s in-form. They’ve already made up a great amount of points on the teams above them when it looked like they were getting cut adrift.

“That shows the job that Scott Parker’s done, that they’re in touching distance of three or four other clubs now.”


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