Aston Villa skipper Micah Richards buoyed by return of Jores Okore

The 23-year-old centre-back has made back-to-back starts for Villa after recovering from summer knee surgery.

While Aston Villa have had few positives to cling to in recent weeks as their winless run continues, the return of Jores Okore to first-team action has been at least one bright spot.

The 23-year-old centre-back underwent knee surgery following May’s 4-0 FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal after fighting through the pain barrier during last season’s run-in and missed the opening 14 Premier League games of this term while building back to full fitness.

However, after making a handful of starts for the Under-21s, the Denmark international returned to the senior fold for the 1-1 draw at Southampton earlier this month, and after an impressive performance, kept his spot in the side for last weekend’s 2-0 home loss to Arsenal.

Both appearances came in place of skipper Micah Richards, who has been sidelined for the past fortnight with a knee injury of his own, and the ailing defender has been happy to see his replacement finally get a chance to impress on the pitch after working so hard towards his comeback.

Speaking to Villa’s official website, Richards said: "We are both playing for the same position but I've been through what he has been through with his knee and it is not nice being out for so long and not knowing when your next opportunity is going to come.

"So it is just down to him to go and show the manager what he can do and why he thinks he should be playing. He has always got a smile around the place.

"There is no-one that deserves a chance more than Jores because of the person he is and the effort that he gives. It is a good opportunity for him to impress the manager."

2015-16 Premier League TeamTotal Tackles MINSTackle AccuracyTotal Clearances MINSDuels Won MINSDuel SuccessInterceptions MINSBall Recoveries MINSPassing AccuracyAppearancesMins Played
Jores Okore Aston Villa 30 33% 13.85 18 71.43% 60 18 82% 2 180
Micah Richards Aston Villa 55.71 71% 12.58 12.72 71.88% 32.5 19.18 86% 13 1,170
Ciaran Clark Aston Villa 80 67% 10.91 16.36 66.67% 32.73 23.23 77% 8 720
Joleon Lescott Aston Villa / West Brom 85.91 91% 15 25.54 59.68% 39.38 18.53 80% 11 945

A few nervy moments aside, Okore was arguably Villa’s best player in Sunday’s loss to Arsenal, but it remains to be seen whether he will be able to hold onto his place in the side moving forward.

Saturday’s trip to Newcastle United should see Richards make his return from injury, leaving the Danish defender needing to fight off competition from Joleon Lescott and Ciaran Clark for the right to start alongside his skipper.

In addition, Liverpool loanee Tiago Ilori is also nearing contention for some first-team minutes after shaking off a nagging groin strain, while it is not out of the question that manager Remi Garde could add another name into the mix once the winter transfer window opens next month.

Nevertheless, there is certainly an argument to make that a fully fit Okore is Villa’s best centre-back, and having just turned 23 in August, he should still have a lot more to offer the club.

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