Dean Smith has revealed that James Chester could yet face Birmingham City on Sunday if he passes late fitness tests on Friday and Saturday. The 29-year-old was an injury doubt for the Villans after picking up a knock on international duty, but Smith has given hope to a potential return in time for the weekend’s Second City derby.
He told Aston Villa’s official website: “It’s still a bit early for Chester to be fully assessed. But I’m hopeful (he’ll) be ok. We’ll be leaving it late to make a decision, but (he) won’t have lost any fitness. Chester played 50 minutes for Wales (and is a) naturally fit player. I’ll need (him) on the training ground on Friday and Saturday for assessment.”
Chester has missed just one league game this season and has helped Villa pick up clean sheets in their last two Championship outings. He’s forged a formidable partnership at centre-back with Axel Tuanzebe and Villa don’t have any obvious replacement in his stead. Mile Jedinak or Alan Hutton would be forced to play at centre-back if Chester isn’t passed fit in time.
Steve Bruce’s decision to loan out Tommy Elphick is looking increasingly foolish by the day and it’s almost guaranteed that Smith will sign a central defender when the winter transfer window opens in January – James Collins is still a free agent and was training with the club.
Nevertheless, Villa have to make do with what little they’ve got until the new year.