Aston Villa manager Remi Garde has told Micah Richards he will not just walk straight back into the team now he is fit again – despite being captain.
Richards, who was brought back to England in the summer by former boss Tim Sherwood after a season in Italy with Fiorentina, faces a fight to regain his place in the side after Villa earned four points from the two Barclays Premier League matches he was absent.
The 27-year-old was on the bench for the win against Crystal Palace and then the draw with Leicester after sustaining a foot injury at Wycombe in the FA Cup.
Joleon Lescott and Jores Okore were Garde’s central defensive pairing for those games and the Frenchman feels he might have to be fair to them by sticking with them for the trip to local rivals West Brom on Saturday.
Richards returned to the team this week for the replay with Wycombe, starting alongside Ciaran Clark in the middle, but the feeling is Garde will revert back to a defence consisting of Lescott, Okore, Aly Cissokho and Leandro Bacuna at The Hawthorns.
“This is something have have to consider. It is not an easy situation because Micah used to be the captain of the team for the start of the season,” said the Villa boss.
“But then I have to consider as well the last two games we played were very interesting in many aspects. I have to be fair with everybody, with every player in my team.
“But this is quite good news for me when I have competition between big players for selection to the starting line-up.
“I know it can be frustrating when you are not selected but once again for me as a manager it is good to have competition. If not, we would be in big trouble.”
Midfielder Carlos Sanchez will undergo a fitness test ahead of the short trip to West Brom.
However, full-back Alan Hutton remains out with a hamstring strain while striker Gabriel Agbonlahor, who has played only one minute of football since Garde took over at the beginning of November, is also likely to be missing again after reporting a new injury problem.
“Gabby trained on the Sunday before we played Wycombe on Tuesday then he got injured with a hip problem on Monday,” said Garde. “He is probably not available but I will see.”