Ross Barkley is making progress in his recovery from injury but the on-loan Aston Villa midfielder will not be fit in time for Saturday’s midlands derby against Wolves.
The 27-year-old, on a season-long loan at Villa Park from Chelsea, sustained a hamstring injury early on in the home defeat to Brighton on November 21 and missed the loss at West Ham last week.
Dean Smith’s side resume their Premier League campaign at Molineux on Saturday and Barkley will remain on the sidelines, although it is hoped he could return against Burnley next week.
“Ross it out still. He’s running now but this game will come too soon for him,” said Villa boss Smith.
“Either next Thursday or Sunday (against West Brom), we’ll look at it but what we don’t want to do is miss him for too long so we don’t want to rush it.”
Barkley, along with club captain Jack Grealish, avoided punishment by the club after breaking coronavirus restrictions at the weekend.
Smith has spoken to the pair and reminded them of their responsibilities after they were spotted dining together in a London restaurant to celebrate Barkley’s 27th birthday.
Although Grealish and Barkley, who both live in tier 2 areas around Birmingham, did not break any rules by travelling to London, the current guidelines forbid meeting people from different households indoors.
Smith has now drawn a line under the matter, saying: “The club put a statement out yesterday in the media after viewing the video sent to us and it has been dealt with, reminding the players of their responsibilities during what is tough times for everyone, and we have moved on.”
Villa will look to bounce back from successive Premier League defeats at Molinuex and Smith is wary of facing a Wolves team who were beaten 4-0 by Liverpool last time out.
“It’s always a concern that a team who very rarely gets beat by that margin will be smarting and looking forward to this game to put things right,” said Smith.
“They’re one of the teams in the league that are tough to beat. You look at their last few seasons in this league and they’ve been the team that all promoted sides are trying to emulate.
“They’ve lost some big players with (Diogo) Jota going to Liverpool and Raul Jimenez with the unfortunate head injury, but they’re still a very good team with some very good players.
“We need to concentrate on ourselves, though. In the last two games against Brighton and West Ham, we certainly deserved more with the performances we produced. Three games ago we beat Arsenal 3-0, so we’re not doing a lot wrong at the moment.”
Centre-back Bjorn Engels will be back in contention against Wolves after a long lay-off with a thigh injury. The Belgian has not played a competitive match for Villa since the 4-0 loss at Leicester back in March.
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