Aston Villa manager Dean Smith says that Jack Grealish will return to full training on Saturday, but will not feature in Sunday’s clash with Manchester United.
The Villa captain has missed his boyhood club’s last 11 games due to a shin injury picked up back in February. The spell on the sidelines initially came with controversy, after it was leaked to Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers. However, Villa’s downturn in form has proved the biggest take-out from his absence.
Smith’s side have only won three of their last 11 Premier League games, losing five.
As such, the manager and player are both “itching” to see him return to the Villa fold. But they will have to wait at least next Thursday’s meeting with Everton to see the England international back in action.
“It will be 12 games that he misses. He’s out on the grass loading the injury, so he’s on his way back, but this game will be too soon for him,” Smith told his pre-United press conference.
“He starts training with the actual group tomorrow.
“As I’ve said many times, we want him back as soon as possible, but we’ve got to do it right as well.
“We obviously had a spike in his loading last time and we had a reaction, so we have to make sure that we’re very conservative with our approach this time with it.
“He’s itching to get back, we’re itching to get him back, but we’re led by the medical staff.”
Sunday’s match will – should it go ahead as planned – be United’s first taste of Premier League action since April 25, after last Sunday’s match with Liverpool was postponed.
However, Smith says that the events in the past week around Old Trafford have no effect on Sunday’s game.
Smith wary of Man Utd
“We saw what happened at the weekend, with the Liverpool game being postponed, and while we respect everybody’s right to protest,” the manager said.
“I echo Ole’s statement after, suggesting you have to do it in the right way. We don’t expect any more of those protests at the weekend.
“Manchester United have got a lot of games to play, they’ve got a cup final to look forward to now, and they’ll be looking to cement their second-placed spot.
“They’ve done very well this season and we know we are coming up against a very good team.”