Have Aston Villa seen the last of Ciaran Clark this season?

Manager Tim Sherwood has delivered some ominous news on the defender's fitness.

Aston Villa will be without Ciaran Clark for tomorrow’s FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool and manager Tim Sherwood’s comments to AVTV ahead of the match suggest we won’t be seeing the defender again this season.

Clark, 25, began the campaign as Villa’s fourth-choice centre-back but has proved a revelation since injuries gave him the chance to earn a run in the side in mid-November, going on to start all but two matches.

Considered the front-runner for the club’s Player of the Year award, he suffered a serious blow in last weekend’s 1-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur, however, when he was forced off in just the 17th-minute with medial knee ligament damage.

There was also bad news for midfielder Carlos Sanchez, who received a red card during the closing stages of the match after earning a second booking for a poor challenge.

With both ruled out for the Wembley showpiece, Sherwood is hoping to at least give the Colombian a chance to start next month’s final with an upset win over Liverpool but, when it comes to Clark, the Villa boss believes he would still have a hard time making it back in time.

“Unfortunately, Ciaran won’t be able to make it,” he said on his status for the semi-final. “It’s tough for him. It’s tough for Carlos Sanchez too, who got sent off and isn’t able to play, but it’s up to other guys now to come in and do a job for us.

“Our priority now is get Carlos Sanchez back for the final in May but Ciaran Clark’s obviously going to struggle for that.

“It’s a real blow for Ciaran but that’s the nature of the game – when you’re in there, there’s a chance of getting injured.

“He’s certainly one that doesn’t hold back and puts his body on the line. Unfortunately, he’s caught one there and we’ll see him next season.”

Makes no bones about it; missing Clark for the rest of the campaign would be big blow for Villa but Sherwood can at least take comfort in the fact that he has a more than capable replacement waiting in the wings in Nathan Baker.

The defender hasn’t been seen much in recent months, having made just one start in three appearances since suffering a sprained knee in November’s 0-0 draw at West Ham United, but he put in an excellent performance at White Hart Lane after replacing Clark.

In addition, the former England Under-21 international also impressed during the opening weeks of the season while deputising for the ailing Ron Vlaar, starting the 1-0 win at Anfield, and Sherwood will be hoping for a similar showing when he comes up against the Reds tomorrow afternoon.

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