DEAN Smith has been dealt a huge injury setback with the news that Tommy Elphick has been ruled out of action for six weeks.
Elphick had to be stretchered off against Derby County last Saturday with a foot injury.
And the diagnosis is not good with the former Bournemouth defender looking at a return sometime near the middle of April.
That could be just two or three weeks before the end of the season at a time when Villa are launching a late bid for the play-offs.
Elphick, 31, has torn a ligament in his foot.
It means while Smith was able to welcome back Jack Grealish from injury last Saturday – and will have John McGinn back from suspension for Sunday’s derby at Blues, the Villa manager’s options in defence have dwindled once more.
He already club captain James Chester, Alan Hutton and Axel Tuanzebe on the sidelines. Now Elphick has been added to that leaving a gap in central defence for the trip to St Andrew’s – at a time when he has been playing for a new Villa Park contract.
Kortney Hause could fill in alongside Tyrone Mings, but they are the only two fit centre halves left.
It would seem Hause would start alongside Mings at Birmingham with Neil Taylor coming into the team.
Elphick was recalled from his loan spell at Hull City by Smith during the January window.