Dean keeps Blues guessing

Good and bad news for Villa boss in terms of team selection – but Smith says he still has solid options ahead of St Andrew’s clash

By Graham Hill

DEAN Smith admits the loss of Tommy Elphick for six weeks with a foot injury is a huge blow ahead of the Blues derby at St Andrew’s.

And it leaves Smith with a different kind of dilemma to sort out before the game.

But that did not stop the Villa boss leaving Birmingham manager Garry Monk guessing before Sunday’s game.

While Smith may have huge competition to play in the centre of midfield, he will have to decide who can fill the gap left by Elphick.

Elphick had to stretchered off during the 4-0 win over Derby last week and that leaves Smith short of numbers at the back.

The former Bournemouth defender was called back from his loan spell at Hull City by Smith in January – but he should play some part again between now and the end of the season.

That left Smith debating whether to play Mile Jedinak at centre half – or move Kortney Hause from left back to partner Tyrone Mings

Smith told reporters: “Tommy’s torn a muscle under the foot which is a blow – and a rare one.

“We seem to have had our share of injuries – probably since we played Birmingham the last time.

“Henri Lansbury did his hamstring and we haven’t seen him since.

“Albert Adomah was out for six weeks after that game and then we lost Jack Grealish with a bone stress injury.

“Axel Tuanzebe, we haven’t seen him since. We’ve lost Alan Hutton and Tommy in the last couple of weeks, we’ve been unfortunate on the injury front.

“The players have come through it though.”

Smith said on Friday he knew what his team would be – and was due to tell the players on Saturday.

But he still offered up a teaser over his final selection.

Smith said: “I’ve got a decision to make, do I put Mile in at centre back? Or do I move Kortney into a more customary central defender role and play Neil Taylor at left back which was how we ended last week’s game.

“It’s nice to have decisions to make though as John McGinn is back from suspension.

“But I’d much rather Tommy hadn’t got injured.”

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