By Graham Hill
ASTON Villa boss Dean Smith will be keeping his cards close to his chest against Norwich on Sunday – and confirmed he IS resting key players.
Striker Tammy Abraham has recovered from a shoulder injury but is unlikely to be risked against the Championship leaders who need one point to make sure of the title.
And influential midfielder John McGinn will play no part at Villa Park as he is on 14 yellow cards for the season and one more caution would see him hit with a three match ban – ending his play-off campaign before it has even started.
Smith has promised Norwich will not get an easy ride with Villa looking to extend their unbeaten run to 13 games.
But at the same time, Smith will have one eye on the home leg of the play-off semi-final which will be held a week on Saturday – probably against West Brom.
In the big picture, that is a far more important game although Smith will not want to let down another sell out crowd at Villa Park.
After coming this far, Smith does not want to let promotion slip now.
Smith told Villa’s official TV channel: “Tammy’s available. If I needed him on Sunday I could use him.“I don’t think I will, though. It’s better for him that he gets some more training minutes and is ready for the first Play-Off game.
“James Chester hasn’t trained as often as the likes of Alan Hutton and Tommy Elphick, so would probably be a slight risk.
“Kortney Hause has trained and has hopefully come through his injury. He could be available for selection and is one who needs minutes ahead of the Play-Offs.
“I’ll sit down the coaching staff later and run a few things by them. But I’ve got a team in mind that I want to play.”
Keeper Jed Steer and forwards Jonathan Kodjia and Keinan Davis have also shaken off injuries.
Smith also has Anwar El Ghazi available after his red card at Leeds was overturned after he ‘hit’ Patrick Bamford.
But the Villa boss admitted he did not lose any sleep over that one.
He added: “I wasn’t fully surprised!
“It’s great that the panel produced the expected outcome.
“He’s an important player for us and the sad part was we missed him for the last 20 minutes at Leeds.”