Aston Villa are optimistic midfielder Gareth Barry will be able to avoid undergoing surgery on a groin problem which first flared up two months ago.
The England player was rested for the FA Cup third round clash at Gillingham after Villa manager Martin O'Neill felt the injury restricted his movement during the Barclays Premier League game at Hull 10 days ago. Barry is expected to return to action for Saturday's clash with West Brom but O'Neill admitted Villa will carefully monitor his fitness.
He said: "Gareth wants to play. His is a situation where we will just monitor it. If it gets really bad, then we will maybe have to take him out of things and do one of those little operations."
He added: "But, at the moment, I am miles ahead of myself. Gareth is happy to continue on.
"The groin was the sorest it has been against Hull and I thought it was restricting him in the game.
"But he has had a rest for a few days and now he wants to play."
O'Neill added: "The groin first flared up a couple of months ago but players get niggles and they go through them. Gareth would play through them like some of the other boys in the team.
"It is not one of those that is going to do him irreparable damage. Yes, it can get progressively worse and then we will monitor it. But the scans were okay.
"During a season, if you are feeling brilliant for eight or 10 of the games, you are doing well. Players play with illness and injuries all the time."
Barry has played a key role in Villa challenging for a Champions League spot after putting behind him the disappointment of failing to clinch a summer move to Liverpool.
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