Team News: Aston Villa
By Kevin Affleck
Danny Welbeck is edging ever closer to a return to action, with Head Coach Nigel Pearson at the stage where he is comfortable enough to say “we'll have to wait and see” if the England striker is in the mix for a key game at Aston Villa on Tuesday night.
Welbeck has been out of action since the game at Tottenham Hotspur in October with a hamstring injury that required surgery, but he's been back in full training for at least a week or so and has really impressed Pearson with his condition.
“Danny is getting closer and closer,” said the Head Coach. “Out of all of them [the injured players], he would be the one nearest to being ready for selection. We'll have have to wait and see [if he's involved] at Villa Park.”
The return of Welbeck would offset the absence of Ismaïla Sarr who will miss the game tomorrow night with the leg injury that forced him off against Tottenham at the weekend.
“We are still waiting to see what the extent of it is,” said Pearson. “I can't give anything other than that. He is not going to be available for tomorrow's game. I really don't know [what the injury is], but whatever it is, we'll deal with it. There is no point getting ahead of myself... but he's clearly been such a positive player for us. After tomorrow's game, it's FA Cup weekend again and hopefully we'll have him available for the next Premier League game.”
Kiko Femenía, Will Hughes, Tom Cleverley, Daryl Janmaat and Sebastian Prödl are also still unavailable, but Pearson remains excited about their respective returns at various points as it demonstrates the depth of the squad he has inherited.
“Kiko is still making progress and we'll see how he goes,” said the Head Coach. “Tom Cleverley is back out on the grass, which is good. Will will hopefully be back for Everton. He's close now. Both Prödl and Janmaat are still not at the stage where we can start speculating when they'll be rejoining the group. There is progress in some areas and it's frustrating for some players who are not at the stage where we can reintroduce them to the group. I'm confident of the availability of some players relatively soon. During the course of the season you come to terms with the fact that, at any given time, players are not going to be available, but it's something very positive for us that we have players coming back. They'll be great.”
With international players on the cusp of a return, Pearson is not advocating major surgery to the squad this month.
“I don't rule anything out, but we are pretty happy with the squad we already have,” said the Head Coach. “I'm really pleased with the players we have. It's not about freshening it up – what's important is trying to improve the squad. I don't see any need to freshen it up as the players we have are very committed and motivated to do the job that presents itself.
“We still have a lot of games and it's going to be a difficult task, but it's about dealing with the demands and pressures as they fluctuate. The players we have are not only ready to accept the challenge, but ready to take it on. It's not about spending time changing a squad we are happy with.”