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Despite some cryptic headlines doing the rounds across social media and the regional press clickbaiters, Jack Grealish is expected to be available for this weekends visit of Stoke City.
Grealish has been known to be carrying a shin injury in recent weeks. This was the issue that forced him from the field just a few minutes before Villa conceded to the now infamous ‘Hand of Rod’ equaliser at The Hawthorns’.
Whilst Grealish is anticipated to be declared fit, the importance of the 23 year old to our plans to get out of The Championship cannot be over-stated. However, do need to protect him at this key juncture or take the risk by allowing him to play through the pain barrier?
With the increased fitness of Bolasie and the welcome emergence of Anwar El Ghazi, might this be the time to consider resting Grealish? This may allow him the opportunity to impact of the bench, enabling recuperation of his shin and banking valuable game time for games where his quality is demanded. I’m thinking Leeds….
Grealish is routinely targeted by opposition sides, and whilst there is a clamour from some that he goes down too easily, he is also the most fouled man in a division.
Does he invite the challenge? Sometimes, as is his right. Does that justify the innumerable times he’s kicked off his feet? Not at all.
Grealish’s quick feet and footballing brain often leave defenders desperately attempting a recovery tackle. Those challenges can be forgiven, but are rarely referenced by those who see the midfielder as a diver.
Further, how many times have we seen Jack get cleaned out after he’s released the ball to a team-mate? Recent examples include his assist for El Ghazi’s second goal at the Hawthorns, in which he gets unceremoniously cleaned out. Don’t forget that Blues also kicked him up in the air within 15 seconds of the second city derby….but then karma is a bitch.
Ultimately this is where manager’s like Smith earn their money.
Rest Grealish, with key fixtures and Christmas congestion in mind and risk the wrath of the fans if results go awry.
Might playing him on a minor shin injury lead to a more serious, protracted injury?
Can Villa afford to take their foot off the gas as Norwich pull yet further away and no ground being made up on Leeds? (Despite Villa’s recent good form..)
And…we’re yet to hit the playoffs, after-all.