Villa man could return after year out to face club he suffered injury against
Aston Villa could welcome back a player into its match day squad for the first time in almost twelve months on Thursday.
Tom Heaton, 34, has not played in nearly a year after suffering a torn cruciate ligament injury against former club Burnley on New Year’s Day.
Now, in a twist of fate, he could be called back into the team to face the Clarets again this week.
The club will also assess Ross Barkley as he continues to recover from a hamstring problem while Douglas Luiz and Matty Cash are both suspended while Trezeguet misses out with a hamstring injury.
Villa sit in 10th in the Premier League table, seven places and nine points above Burnley, who climbed out of the relegation zone by beating Arsenal on Sunday.
That was only the Clarets’ second victory of the season. Villa boss Smith gave his view on his opponents’ season so far.
“They’ve obviously not had the start to the season that (manager) Sean (Dyche) would have wanted for them,” he said.
“But you just look at their last four of five performances, bar the Manchester City one, they’ve been performing well and very difficult to play against, very difficult to score against, and got a deserved win in the end at Arsenal.”
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El Ghazi confidence boosted
Smith hopes Anwar El Ghazi’s match-winning cameo against Wolves will boost the winger’s confidence.
El Ghazi is yet to start a Premier League game this season but came on for the last 15 minutes of last Saturday’s derby and converted the winning penalty in the 90th minute.
Smith said: “Anwar is competing this season with Jack (Grealish), Trezeguet and (Bertrand) Traore and he’s found it difficult to break in so far.
“But, whenever he’s stepped up. he’s played well. He’s a top player, we know that, one of the major reasons we’re in this league.
“The goal and the penalty will have done him the world of good. By coming on the pitch and scoring that goal, it will certainly lift his confidence.
“Over the last two weeks, certainly in training, I’ve seen a marked difference in his application and attitude to training, to wanting to get back into the team.”
El Ghazi has faced persistent criticism from some Villa fans and deactivated his Twitter account earlier this season after receiving abusive messages.
Defender Tyrone Mings took to the social media platform after Saturday’s match, writing: “Good morning villains. I really hope all you who were berating and hounding El Ghazi enough to make him suspend his social media, are in his DM’s today, apologising.
“A team game utilises a WHOLE squad and we need everyone… may your apology be as loud as the disrespect.”
Smith said he is not a fan of social media, saying: “I’d be happy if a lot of the players came off social media. I’m not on it myself.
“It is a platform for pats on the back but also critique as well and, if it gets too much then, for me, for the mental health of anybody, not just footballers, then get off there.”