Aston Villa midfielder John McGinn is edging close to a return from injury. The Scotland international has been sidelined since fracturing his ankle in December’s defeat to Southampton.
He returned to training before the Carabao Cup final defeat to Manchester City and stepped up the intensity this week.
McGinn has yet to build up to full-contact training so Monday’s fixture against Leicester City will come too soon.
Instead, he has been earmarked to return to the match-day squad for the home clash against Chelsea on March 14.
Villa boss Dean Smith said: “He’s near now. He’s training with us but with no contact as yet, but he’s involved.”
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McGinn scored three goals and provided two assists before the injury while his non-stop running in the engine room was crucial to the team’s style of play.
While Smith would be naturally cautious about throwing the 25-year-old back into the thick of it, he has no plans to curb his approach.
He said: “We’ve missed him. Not just for his banter because he’s a funny lad, but it’s the quality he’s got.
“He gives you legs. He runs all day. He’s got a massive, massive heart. But sometimes people overlook the quality the kid has too. He’s a quality footballer.
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“We’ve taken the reins off him a little bit since he’s been here – allowed him to get into the opposition’s box and we’ve seen what he can do scoring goals for Aston Villa and Scotland now as well.”
Smith added: “You miss players like John who is a top player. I said to the medical staff the other day we have missed his legs and his quality because he gives you the lot.
“So don’t give me him back without his legs and his quality! Mentally he can handle anything, without a shadow. Mentally he’s as strong as they come. A really good guy.”
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