Aston Villa hopeful for Jack Grealish return at Stoke
Villa are hopeful Jack Grealish will be fit enough to feature on the bench at Stoke this Saturday with the playmaker nearing the end of his injury nightmare.
Grealish has not played since early December due to a bone stress injury in his shin, with Villa winning just two of 12 Championship games during his absence.
The 23-year-old has been steadily building his fitness at Bodymoor Heath over recent weeks and boss Dean Smith had earmarked the trip to the Potteries for a potential return.
He said: “I’m hoping Jack may be available for the bench at Stoke. He is working on his fitness side at the moment.
“He is in no pain but I will be guided by the medical staff.”
Grealish’s return, though undoubtedly a boost, may come too late to save Villa’s play-off hopes, which now hang by a thread after Saturday’s 2-0 derby defeat to Albion.
Smith, who will be without John McGinn for the next two games after the Scot picked up his 10th booking of the season, admits it will now require something special to close a seven point gap to the top six.
But the boss again insisted their dramatic drop in form has not been entirely down to the loss of Grealish, who sustained his injury in the first derby clash with Baggies.
“Jack got injured in the Albion game but after that we played Stoke and Leeds and won at Swansea,” said Smith.
“After that game we ended up playing three right-backs in the back four. We had no Axel Tuanzebe and James Chester playing injured.
“If you take that quality out of any team, it is going to hurt. The lads battled away but for me our dip in performances has been since the FA Cup game last month. I don’t think we have been as fluid or as good since then.”
He continued: “Will it take something special to make the play-offs? Yes, but this can be a special place, so why not? We are making it hard for ourselves.”