The 22-year-old Liverpool loanee is finally nearing contention for some playing time alongside his skipper after shaking off a troublesome groin strain.
Tiago Ilori may not have played any first-team football at Aston Villa since his deadline day arrival, but the Liverpool loanee has been learning a lot in the meantime from training alongside the likes of fellow defender Micah Richards.
Speaking to Villa’s official website about his skipper, Ilori said: “Micah is a great player - and a great person as well. You try and learn from all the players.
“Obviously he's an important person in this team so I can learn a lot from him with his experience and generally the way he plays.
“It's great for me as he plays in my position. He's a confident footballer.”
|2015-16 Premier League||Team||Goals||Total Tackles MINS||Tackle Accuracy||Total Clearances MINS||Headers Won MINS||Header Success||Interceptions MINS||Passing Accuracy||Appearances||Mins Played|
|Micah Richards||Aston Villa||1||55.71||71%||12.58||31.62||71.15%||32.5||86%||13||1,170|
|Joleon Lescott||Aston Villa / West Brom||1||85.5||90%||14.25||47.5||75%||35.63||79%||10||855|
|Ciaran Clark||Aston Villa||0||80||67%||10.91||24.83||74.36%||32.73||77%||8||720|
|Jores Okore||Aston Villa||0||30||0%||22.5||0||NaN||90||77%||1||90|
Ilori, 22, joined Villa from Liverpool on 1 September on season-long loan deal with a view to permanent move, but a series of troublesome injuries have so far prevented him from making his first-team debut for the club.
The highly-rated defender, who also had loan spells at Granada and Bordeaux, respectively, over the previous two campaigns, has now shaken off a recent groin strain, however, and he made the senior bench for the first time in last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Southampton.
Since playing 90 minutes for the Under-21s in Monday night’s 2-1 win over Derby County, manager Remi Garde has been quick to talk up the former Portugal Under-21 international's potential as he builds up his match fitness, but he has also stressed that he still has some work to do before he can claim a place in the starting XI.
"Regarding Tiago, he's a player who has struggled a lot in previous weeks with many light injuries,” the ex-Lyon boss said at his pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday’s home clash with Arsenal. "He didn't have a full week of training for the moment.
"Of course, he was on the bench in the previous game. But he needs to improve again his fitness to be a serious contender.
"I wouldn't say he is far away. I am happy the way he is coming back to his full fitness.
"But probably he needs to do a little bit more before games."
Capable of playing anywhere across the backline or even in a holding midfield role, Ilori’s versatility should make it much easier for him to earn some top-flight action once he is up to full speed, but where Garde envisages him fitting in the side remains to be seen.
With mentor Richards, Ciaran Clark, Joleon Lescott and Jores Okore all providing strong competition at centre-half, it will be hard to get a game at his preferred position, but there have been suggestions that he could contend for playing time at left-back following Jordan Amavi's season-ending knee injury.