Aston Villa striker Libor Kozak's first-team absence set to continue

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The 26-year-old Czech will not be involved in Saturday's match at Southampton, manager Remi Garde has confirmed.

While plenty of Aston Villa fans have been calling for Libor Kozak to get an opportunity in the side amid the club’s miserable run of form, it sounds like their pleas are falling on deaf ears.

Speaking to the Birmingham Mail ahead of the weekend’s trip to Southampton, manager Remi Garde insisted that the Czech striker is no better than his other forward options and needs to do more to even earn a place on the substitute bench.

“I can’t tell you details but he needs to be better,” Garde said of Kozak. “He won’t be involved this weekend, no. You know my job is to pick what I think the best players are. This is the way it is with Libor.

“I have the feeling for many reasons that he could not do better than we are doing at the moment. This is my feeling.

“I am not saying anything bad about Libor. He’s not the only one not to be included in the squad. I saw him playing with the reserves and then I decided.”

 Premier League SeasonGoalsGoals MINSTotal Shots MINSShooting AccuracyScoring V Shooting AccuracyAssistsKey PassesPassing AccuracyAppearancesMins Played
Libor Kozák 2013-14 4 195.25 71 64% 36% 0 8 55% 14 781
Rudy Gestede 2015-16 3 251.33 26 24% 10% 0 3 55% 14 754

Kozak first joined Villa from Lazio in September 2013 for €6.5 million [£4.7 million] and made a decent start to life in England, scoring four goals in his first 14 Premier League appearances for the club.

However, the 26-year-old forward suffered a major injury blow in January 2014 when he broke his leg in a training ground collision with Ciaran Clark and has since been fighting to revive his career.

After two operations and 19 months without first-team football, the fit-again front man returned to the senior setup to establish himself as one of the stars of Villa’s pre-season, but his three goals from five friendlies were not enough to break into former boss Tim Sherwood’s plan for the new campaign.

Despite Christian Benteke’s departure to Liverpool, the former Serie A star earned just one 48-minute substitute appearance in the Capital One Cup over the first three months of the season, and he has so far failed to make the bench in any of Garde’s opening three games in charge.

Midlands rivals Birmingham City reportedly tried to sign the rarely-used hitman on loan before last weekend’s loan deadline, but according to the Birmingham Mail, the Villa boss rejected their approach due to concerns over his squad size.

“No players left because I’ve got some players struggling to be fit again,” Garde told the newspaper. “I decided that nobody would leave but maybe they will in the next window.”

In the meantime, Kozak has netted two times in three starts for Villa’s Under-21s this season, including in a 2-2 draw with Blackburn Rovers earlier this week, but his overall performance on the night did little to suggest that he deserves a senior recall.

It is now nearly two years since he last scored a top-flight goal in a 2-1 defeat at Stoke City, and given Garde’s comments, it does not look like he will be breaking that drought in the near future.

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