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Dean Smith hopeful Aston Villa playmaker Jack Grealish will be 'pushing' for the bench against Stoke City

Dean Smth head coach of Aston Villa during the Sky Bet Championship match between Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion at Villa Park on February 16, 2019 in Birmingham, England.

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith has been without playmaker Jack Grealish since December.

7th December 2018, The Hawthorns, West Bromwich, England; EFL Championship football, West Bromwich Albion versus Aston Villa; Jack Grealish of Aston Villa shoots at goal

Dean Smith has confirmed that he is hopeful Jack Grealish will be 'pushing' for a start from the bench when Aston Villa travel to Stoke City next Saturday.

Playmaker Grealish has not played for his boyhood club since December and in his absence, they have won only two matches, which has all but cost them a potential top-six finish. 

Villa suffered a 2-0 defeat against rivals West Brom on Saturday afternoon as they are now seven points behind the play-off places, but they have also played two games more than those teams ahead of them. 

 

Nonetheless, Smith shared some positive news about Villa's key player in what has been a dismal season for the club from the very get-go. 

"I'm hoping he will be pushing the bench for next week," Smith told BBC WM Sport. "He certainly won't be fit enough to start, but again I will be guided by the medical staff on how and when he recovers."

Prior to Grealish's injury, Villa would have felt that they had a great chance of finishing in the top-six after a poor start to the campaign which resulted in Smith replacing Steve Bruce in the dugout.

Jack Grealish of Aston Villa and Alan Hutton of Aston Villa celebrate at the end of the Sky Bet Championship match between Aston Villa and Birmingham City at Villa Park on November 25,...

But, the whole team has struggled without their main player in the middle of the park, beating only Swansea City and bottom-of-the-table Ipswich Town during his time on the sidelines.

The likes of John McGinn and Conor Hourihane have played in the more advanced roles for Villa since his absence, but aside from McGinn, the majority of the club's midfield have struggled to prove their worth. 

Grealish has played 21 league matches this season, scoring two goals and supplying four assists for his teammates, according to transfermarkt. 

Jack Grealish of Aston Villa looks on during the Sky Bet Championship match between Aston Villa and Birmingham City at Villa Park on November 25, 2018 in Birmingham, England.

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