Aston Villa could have Marvelous Nakamba back in a matchday squad for the first time since December today, with the Zimbabwe midfielder back from a knee injury which has ruled him out for nearly four months.
The Villans host Tottenham Hotspur in the late kick-off and will look to return to the top half of the table with a victory.
Villa manager Steven Gerrard confirmed that the 28-year-old is in contention to feature today after playing for the under-23s last Friday, saying: “He has played for the under-23s. So you couldn’t rule out the possibility of him making the matchday squad soon. If not for the Tottenham game, then he’s certainly going to be available for that Leicester fixture.
“But he has an outside chance of being involved in the matchday squad this weekend, although it wouldn’t be a start.”
Although there are doubts regarding Nakamba’s fitness, Gerrard should definitely consider reintroducing the Zimbabwean back into his team if possible.
It’s fair to say that the Villans have endured an inconsistent campaign in 2021/22, although a top-half finish is still very achievable.
Therefore, the final eight Premier League games of the season should be taken seriously, with this stage of a campaign sometimes seen by players as an opportunity to take their foot off the gas when there seems little to play for other than pride.
Having as many players fit and available as possible will certainly be vital to ensure a strong conclusion to the season, and Nakamba’s return will be incredibly welcome.
In the 28-year-old’s absence, the regular midfield trio of John McGinn, Douglas Luiz and Jacob Ramsey has borne fruit on occasion, but there is a lack of competition in the middle of the park.
After Nakamba and those three, Morgan Sanson is the only other senior central midfielder in the squad, with 18-year-old Carney Chukwuemeka being slowly integrated into the first team. The Frenchman has disappointed this term and could well depart in the summer, with Nantes reportedly interested in him.
Moreover, Luiz was poor against Wolves last week, with SofaScore handing the Brazilian a 6.4/10 match rating.
Although the Zimbabwean – who has previously been described as “outstanding” by former Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor – may not start every game until the end of the season, his presence should certainly encourage the other midfielders to remain consistent in order to avoid losing their place in the team.
His is a timely return, even if it is to be from the bench this evening as the manager has hinted, and Aston Villa should certainly benefit from having the £34k-per-week midfielder back in action as they look to secure a first top-half Premier League finish in 11 years.