Dean Smith relishing the return of Villa captain Jack Grealish

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith is expecting captain Jack Grealish to again be “in his happy place” on Monday after a four-week lay-off.

Grealish has been sidelined for longer than Smith originally anticipated after sustaining a calf injury in the 3-0 defeat at Manchester City late last month, in particular due to a heavy bleed.

After being sidelined for the following league losses at home to Liverpool and at Wolves, midfielder Grealish will now return to lead out the side for the visit of Newcastle and former boss Steve Bruce.

“Jack has been training with us,” said Smith. “I’m a little bit ill at ease to say he’s available because I’ve said it for the last couple of weeks and he’s not played, such has been his calf injury.

“But he’s trained with us for the last week, so I have no doubts he’ll be there and in his happy place at Villa Park playing in front of the fans.”

Goalkeeper Tom Heaton is also set to return after he missed the Wolves loss with his own calf problem that forced him to pull out of the England squad for the recent Euro 2020 qualifying wins over Montenegro and Kosovo.

Jed Steer started at Molineux but was forced off after just eight minutes of his Premier League debut with what Smith has now confirmed is a partial tear of his Achilles.

“He’s going to be out for a while,” added Smith. “I’m guessing around three to four months, which is a big disappointment because he was pivotal in us getting promoted last season and he’s been pushing Tom all the way.

“We are taking a conservative approach. It’s not surgical, which is good news, and hopefully we can get him back as soon as possible.

“As for Tom, he felt his calf against Liverpool and didn’t train, but in the build-up to the Wolves game we thought he might come through, but it was just too sore.

“He has been out on the grass today and he will be training tomorrow and Sunday, ready for the game on Monday.”

Smith should also have defenders Bjorn Engels and Matt Targett fit and available.

Engels also sat out the game at Wolves with a hip injury, while Targett suffered concussion early in the second half.

Smith said: “Matt’s been through (the concussion) protocol, and he’s been back training now for the last week.

“Bjorn had an injection in his hip about 10 days ago and has also been back in training. I would expect them all to be fully fit and available for selection.”

Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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