A knee injury looks set to keep Villa's skipper out of Sunday's home clash with Arsenal, but Liverpool loanee Ilori is close to contending for a first-team start.
Aston Villa are set to be without team captain Micah Richards for the second game in succession when they host Arsenal on Sunday lunchtime, manager Remi Garde has revealed at his pre-match press conference.
The 27-year-old defender missed last Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Southampton with a knee injury and has not been able to train since, leaving him facing an uphill battle to make it back in time for Arsenal’s visit.
“Micah is still struggling with a knee problem – a slight one but he is still struggling,” Garde said at his press conference. “He won’t be available for selection.”
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Elsewhere, Rudy Gestede and Leandro Bacuna will both be in contention to feature on Sunday, despite being forced off against Southampton with knocks, while Ciaran Clark is available for selection again after serving a one-game ban.
With Richards out, the fit-again Jores Okore could also keep his place in the line-up, having made his first appearance for the club in six months last weekend after undergoing a knee operation in the summer.
The 23-year-old Dane impressed Garde with his display at St Mary’s, and despite competition from goalscorer Joleon Lescott and Clark, he is now pushing for a regular starting spot alongside his skipper at the heart of defence.
“When I came, Jores didn’t have any games this season because of his knee injury,” said Garde. “And then in the first week he was not at 100 per cent during the training sessions.
“Then, I didn’t see the real Jores, but to be fair, I saw the real one in the game against Southampton. He is someone who can be very strong.
“He can be more concentrated in games than the training sessions I’ve seen previously, and he can still improve, but I have to say that he has done very well for the team.
“I have quite a lot of choices now in this position and you never know about the fitness of the players. Everybody can play in my team. I don’t want to close the door to anyone.”
There is set to be even more competition at centre-back in the near future, too, as Liverpool loanee Tiago Ilori is starting to push for first-team minutes after recovering from a groin strain.
The highly-rated 22-year-old joined Villa from Liverpool on deadline day on a season-long deal, with a view to a permanent move, but he has still not made his debut for the club due to a rash of injuries.
However, he played 90 minutes for the Under-21s in Monday night’s 2-1 win over Derby County after making the senior bench for the first time this season at Southampton, and Garde has been pleased with what he has seen from him in training of late.
With his ability to play anywhere in defence or even in a holding midfield role, the ex-Lyon boss is bullish about what the former Portugal Under-21 international can bring to his squad, although he has stressed that he still has some work to do on his fitness before he can contend for a top-flight start.
“Regarding Tiago, he is also a player who struggled a lot with light injuries,” Garde added at his press conference. "He didn’t have many weeks of full training sessions.
“Of course, he was on the bench the previous game but he needs to improve his fitness to be a serious contender for the first-team. I wouldn’t say he is far away, but at the moment I am happy about the way he is coming back to full fitness.
“But probably he needs to do a little bit more to start games, yes.”
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