Express & Star

Aston Villa have cautious hope over Pau Torres return

Villa are cautiously optimistic Pau Torres will be available for Saturday’s match at Luton.

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The influential centre-back was taken off at half-time during last weekend’s 4-2 win over Nottingham Forest after complaining of muscle pain and will be assessed again later in the week.

But the initial prognosis is understood to be positive, with boss Unai Emery hopeful Torres will be fit to play at Kenilworth Road as Villa look to further strengthen their position inside the Premier League top four.

Victory over Forest sent Villa five points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham, who have a game in hand, while their advantage over Manchester United is now eight points after the latter were beaten 2-1 at home by Fulham. It was the first time they had recorded back-to-back league wins since December and coincided with Torres’ return at Fulham the week previously after two months sidelined with an ankle injury.

The Spain international has performed impressively in his first season since a £31million move from Villarreal, with Emery last week admitting his adaptation to the Premier League had been quicker than expected.

Villa’s boss has been required to consistently reshuffle his defence due to a succession of injuries which began when Tyrone Mings suffered a season-ending knee injury on the campaign’s opening day.

Diego Carlos (hamstring) and Ezri Konsa (knee) are also both currently sidelined, with Torres’ early exit against Forest leading to Calum Chambers’ first league appearance of the season.

The 29-year-old had remained at Villa Park despite being told he could leave by Emery during the January transfer window and was not included in the club’s squad for the knockout stages of the Europa Conference League.

Emery, who has also lost Emi Buendia and Boubacar Kamara to serious knee injuries, has refused to use the persistent upheaval as an excuse.

“As tempting as it can be to think of the injuries and setbacks as an excuse, we have a no excuse culture at this club: We must be ready to win,” said the Villa boss.

“Our squad has the strength in the group itself and this team remains convinced and ambitious, no matter what happens or who plays.”