Dean Smith has delivered an update on Axel Tuanzebe’s fitness, and it is bad news for the on-loan Manchester United defender.
Tuanzebe has been out of action for the Villa Park outfit since injuring a metatarsal in training as the Villans prepared to take on Leeds United on December 21.
Despite taking an early two-goal lead, Smith’s side slipped late in stoppage time, as Kemar Roofe fired home the winner one minute from time against a makeshift backline.
21-year-old James Bree was ushered into central defence to partner James Chester, while the natural right-midfielder Ahmed El Mohamady slotted in at right-back – the Egyptian’s error aiding Roofe’s winner.
Luckily, however, Tommy Elphick has since been recalled from his loan to Hull City, as Tuanzebe will be ruled out for the next two months after undergoing surgery to his foot, Smith has confirmed.
The Manchester United loanee had been one of Villa’s most consistent defenders, even during a turbulent period with Steve Bruce in charge.
Altogether, the 21-year-old registered 23 tackles in his 19 Championship appearances, and followed suit with 17 interceptions, 80 clearances and blocked seven shots.
In fact, only Chester has a better clearance per 90 minutes ratio than the Red Devils product, out of those with more than ten starts, but the Welshman has completed fewer successful tackles with an average of 1.1 per 90.
Without his services to call on, Smith will need Chester, Elphick and versatile options like Mile Jedinak, Bree and Alan Hutton to step up when required if the Lions are to maintain any form of promotion push.
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With his contract up in the summer and being sent out on loan for the 2018/19 season, it was looking likely that Elphick’s future was not going to be at Villa Park.
His sudden recall as a result of Tuanzebe’s blow should have acted as a fresh slate, and first run in the side under Smith, but not long after his arrival the Birmingham-based outfit were being linked with other defenders, such as Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Kortney Hause.
The prolonged absence of Tuanzebe should, however, give Elphick another shot at saving his Claret and Blues’ future and impress Smith with his work on and off the field.