Jack Grealish set to return for Aston Villa against Everton
Aston Villa skipper Jack Grealish is poised to end his three-month injury lay-off.
The England international could be on the bench for Thursday’s Premier League visit of Everton.
Grealish has been out since February with a shin problem and has missed 12 games – with Villa winning just three times in his absence to see their European hopes disappear.
Boss Dean Smith said: “The latest is he trained with the group yesterday and he trained with the group on Saturday. When he comes in today, I’ll speak to him and see how he feels.
“We’ll sit down with the doctor as well and take it from there. I can’t give a positive yes or no. He looked comfortable and he’s a naturally-fit player anyway.
“Is he ready to start games? No, but if he feels pain-free then he’s ready to be a part of the squad.
“His only concern is getting the injury right (rather than making England’s Euro 2020 squad). He has been loading now for the last two weeks and he is getting to a stage where he can get minutes on the pitch which is the most important thing.”
Jonathan Barnett who runs Stellar, Grealish’s agency, also said earlier this week the 25-year-old could stay at Villa beyond the summer.
The midfielder only signed a new five-year deal in September and has been linked with Manchester United.
Smith added: “I’ve not risen to any speculation regarding Jack, he signed a brand new contract at the start of the season and was happy with the vision of the owners.
“He’s had a very good season but has been unfortunate he’s had to miss the last 12 games.”
Villa, who sit 11th, will be without the suspended Ollie Watkins for the first time in the league this season after he was sent off in Sunday’s 3-1 defeat to Manchester United.
The striker collected a second yellow card for diving but Smith defended the England international.
“The referee, in a split second, has to decide whether Ollie is simulating and trying to win a penalty,” said Smith, who is also without the injured Morgan Sanson and Trezeguet.
“What he is trying to say is ‘has he cheated me or not?’
“He has decided Ollie has cheated him. Then it goes to the VAR, which all red cards do, and there’s no way the VAR can say he has cheated the referee because there is contact.
“Is it enough contact for him to go down? Probably not. Was there enough contact for Paul Pogba to go down (for United’s penalty)? Probably not.
“The referee has to make that decision and Ollie has got out of the way of the goalkeeper. I do not believe Ollie was trying to cheat anybody.”