Villa captain Ron Vlaar today emerged as a serious doubt for the Netherlands’ World Cup semi-final against Argentina tomorrow.
Dutch officials say Vlaar has picked up a knee injury and is unlikely to be fit for the last-four showdown in Sao Paulo.
Doubts over Vlaar emerged on Sunday after their quarter-final win on penalties over Costa Rica.
If the 29-year-old misses out, it would be a big blow to Louis Van Gaal’s heralded three-man back line, especially as defensive midfielder Nigel De Jong will miss the rest of the tournament with a groin injury.
Either Feyenoord’s Daryl Janmaat or Wolfsburg’s Paul Verhaegh could deputise if Vlaar is unavailable, or one of young duo Joel Veltman or Terrence Kongolo.
Meanwhile, Joe Cole was today tipped to fill Villa’s creative wildcard and open up chances for the strikers.
Keeper Brad Guzan believes the 32-year-old playmaker can be Villa’s ‘number 10’ and dazzle defences to help set up opportunities for Christian Benteke, Gabby Agbonlahor, Andi Wiemann and Libor Kozak next season.
“I’m really excited by Joe’s arrival,” said Guzan of the former West Ham, Chelsea and England midfielder.
“The gaffer has spoken before of wanting a No.10 and Joe undoubtedly has the ability to play that vital penetrating pass.
“Everyone knows he can open defences up and he’ll definitely ask questions of the opposition.
“He brings flair to the team and his ability is there for all to see so he’ll be a big player for us.
“His ability to open up defences will be huge because we can get behind defenders with Christian, Andi, Libor and Gabby.
“Now to be able to link the midfielders and forwards, it will be great.”
Cole arrived at Villa on a free transfer after his second spell at West Ham and just two games short of 400 Premier League career appearances.
Guzan believes Cole will add vital experience to Lambert’s largely youthful squad, along with fellow free summer capture Philippe Senderos.
“His experience will help the younger guys coming through and that will be important,” said the keeper.
“Whenever you can add talent and experience to a team, I believe that’s an important thing to do.
“Everyone knows his history. He’s a supremely experienced player. His resume speaks for itself.
“To have Joe come into the dressing room will only be beneficial for all of us.”