By Graham Hill
DEAN Smith has ruled out fielding a weakened side at Leeds United this weekend – as it would go against EFL rules.
With Villa already qualified for the Championship play-offs, boss Smith could rest key played at Elland Road.
But Leeds are still fighting for automatic promotion to the Premier League with Sheffield United, Villa will have a big say in who finishes in the top two.
And if Smith is seen to be putting out a less than full strength side, Blades boss Chris Wilder would complain if that hands Leeds three points.
If Sheffield United beat Ipswich, that would leave Leeds needing to beat Villa to have any hope of automatic promotion. But United’s superior goal difference would still give them a huge advantage
It would be tempting to hand the likes of John McGinn a break – he is still on 13 bookings and two more would see him given a three match suspension.
Skipper Jack Grealish would benefit from missing the final two games of the League campaign after inspiring Villa to a 10-match winning run but feeling the aches and pains of being the most marked man in the Championship.
But Smith told reporters on Thursday that he has no intention of stepping off the gas even though Villa booked their play off place by beating Millwall on Monday.
Tammy Abraham is definitely ruled out with the shoulder injury that saw him miss the Millwall game.
The on loan Chelsea striker could be fit to face Norwich next week but it would be no surprise if Abraham was rested for the play offs.
But Smith could have Axel Tuanzebe back after an ankle injury and Smith sees the chance of overhauling West Brom in fourth spot.
That would see Villa play at home in the second leg of a likely semi final with the Baggies.
Smith said: “Our aim is to try and finish above West Brom if we can, there are two games left to do that and I’m not even thinking about the play-offs just yet even though we are still planning ahead.
“There’s a League regulation about fielding strong teams.
“We have to manage the workloads of some players and we’ll continue to do that. We’re doing that constantly anyway.”