Aston Villa are suffering an injury crisis ahead of Sunday’s meeting with Birmingham City, with Dean Smith facing the prospect of being without Neil Taylor and James Chester for the weekend clash. If Alan Hutton starts at left-back as we hypothesised on Vital Villa, Ahmed Elmohamady could replace him on the right. But should James Bree be primed to provide another option?
The 21-year-old has struggled for form and playing time since his 2017-move from Barnsley, racking up just 22 appearances in all competitions in the last 18 months, seven of which came from the bench. Bree has made only one start in the Championship this season and has been seemingly exiled under two managers now.
But with Hutton turning 34 in November and being out of contract next summer, Villa need an obvious replacement. Bree has struggled at the club, but he’s been given a chance from Smith to prove his worth in the form of an internal game. His manager praised his work rate in training, but will that mean he’ll be reintroduced to the matchday squad anytime soon?
Bree featured for Villa’s reserve side on November 4, playing a full 90 minutes in a 5-4 defeat to Reading but hasn’t turned out for the first-team since October 6. He’s been left out of the squad ever since, but is it time for a U-turn on that decision?