Aston Villa striker Libor Kozak believes he will benefit from training with 'tough' Micah Richards

Micah Richards

The fit-again forward has been getting to know his new teammate up close and personal during the first two weeks of pre-season.

Aston Villa striker Libor Kozak believes that facing new tough-tackling teammate Micah Richards in training will prove a huge benefit to his own development.

Kozak, 26, was speaking to AVTV after coming up against Richards for the first time during Villa’s pre-season training camp in Faro, Portugal, where the versatile defender impressed in their two friendly matches against Fulham and SC Braga, respectively.

The club successfully fought off some top competition to sign the former Manchester City man on a free transfer this summer and his Czech teammate is confident that he will prove an excellent addition to Tim Sherwood’s revamped squad – whether at right-back or centre-half.

On facing Richards on the training ground, Kozak said: “It’s tough! He’s a tough lad, but he’s also a very nice person and a really great guy.

“For me, it’s great motivation to come up against him in training and it will be nice to play with him on the pitch.

“I think he’ll be a really good player for us.”

Having started at centre-back in the opening two friendlies, Richards looks set to serve as the departed Ron Vlaar’s replacement heading into the season, but Kozak’s role meanwhile is less clear.

The towering forward has been out of competitive action for 19 months after undergoing two operations following a horror leg-break, but he took just 12 minutes to find the back of the net on his first-team return against Fulham.

Having looked sharp in his two 45-minute run-outs this summer, his comeback bid for the coming campaign is all going to plan so far, although it remains to be seen how long it will take for him to readjust to Premier League football after such a long spell on the sidelines.

With Christian Benteke edging closer towards a move to Liverpool, though, the Czech Republic international could well be set for a much bigger role in Sherwood’s plans than anticipated – a challenge he would relish.

“Sometimes it wasn’t easy [to stay positive],” he told AVTV on his nightmare injury lay-off. “When I had to do the second operation was the hardest moment, but I just had to keep going forward, try to be positive, do my work and get back fit.

“Before the injury, I did well. It was my first season in the Premier League and I was trying to improve, so now I want to continue where I left off two seasons ago and demonstrate that I can come back better than before.”

Certainly, if he can recapture the promise he initially showed after arriving from Lazio in September 2013 – scoring four times in his first 15 appearances, then Kozak will be like another new signing for Sherwood.

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