Aston Villa centre-back Jores Okore is still to make a first-team appearance for the club this season, but the promising 22-year-old could be in line to start for Denmark in Saturday night’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Albania.
With first-choice duo Daniel Agger and Simon Kjaer struggling with injuries, manager Morten Olsen is said to favour giving Okore the nod over uncapped Nantes defender Kian Hansen for the trip to Elbasan, where he would pair up with former FC Nordsjælland teammate Andreas Bjelland.
The Villa man admits that he is still not quite up to full speed after the ruptured ACL tear suffered last season, but believes he is fit enough to put in a reliable shift on the weekend.
‘Of course, training isn’t quit the same as match fitness but, with self-discipline, you can stay sharp. I do not think it's going to have an effect, although I am missing the last percentages. I feel ready,’ he told Danish newspaper BT on the prospect of lining up with Bjelland again.
‘Our knowledge of each other is vast and it is not something you just lose, even if you are away from each other. We know each other really well and talk to each other every day.
‘I know his strengths, and he has not changed much especially since we played together at Nordsjælland. We know where the other is on the field, and knows when we shall cover of one another.’
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Signing from Nordsjælland last summer for around £4 million, Okore made just four appearances during his first season at Villa before rupturing his ACL in a game against Newcastle United on September 14.
He managed to return to the pitch during pre-season, however, and has since gone on to feature for both the club’s under-21 side and the national team as a 67th-minute substitute in the Euro 2016 qualifier against Armenia last month.
Nevertheless, despite Ron Vlaar being sidelined with a groin strain since late-August, Okore is still to make his first-team comeback, with summer signing Philippe Senderos being paired with either Nathan Baker or Ciaran Clark for the past four Premier League games against Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City, respectively.
Manager Paul Lambert revealed prior to the recent 2-0 home defeat to the holders that the eight-times capped international is nearing contention for minutes but, having been most fan’s first-choice to start alongside Vlaar at the start of the campaign, his prolonged absence has been somewhat concerning.