Aston Villa handed key injury boost as Dean Smith faces selection dilemma

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Aston Villa are on top of the world right now.

After narrowly avoiding relegation on the final day of last season the Midlands side have hardly looked back.

Villa made some strong additions during the summer transfer window with the likes of Matty Cash, Ollie Watkins, Emiliano Martinez, Bertrand Traore and Ross Barkley arriving at the club.

It sometimes takes new signings some time to settle in, but based on results I don't think that this is an issue at Villa Park.

Four wins from four has propelled the Villains to second place in the table - a position which far exceeds any pre-season expectations at the club.

But what's even better is the imminent return of a key player.

Tom Heaton arrived at the club last summer and made 20 appearances for the club before suffering a long-term injury which ruled him out for the rest of the campaign.

But according to head coach Dean Smith, the England international is closing in on a return.

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Speaking to Birmingham Live, Smith said: "Tom is back with (Villa goalkeeping coach) Neil Cutler. I'm expecting him to be with our group next week and we're looking at getting him some games.

"Obviously when he's back and flying he'll give me a great problem, and a problem I actually enjoy having."

Of course Heaton faces significant competition to secure his place in the starting line-up after the arrival of Emiliano Martinez.

The former Arsenal man has conceded just two goals in four games so far, and according to Smith it's now up to Heaton to prove his worth once again.

Smith said: "You have those conversations with players all the time.

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"The players' job is to try to get into the manager's thoughts, and I always say to them 'it's only my opinion that somebody is doing better than you, you've got to change that opinion'.

"My job here is to treat them as human beings and explain why I make decisions."

GIVEMESPORT'S Phil Spencer says...

This is a massive boost for Aston Villa.

Tom Heaton is a top goalkeeper and so to have him fit again will be a huge plus for the club.

With Emiliano Martinez joining the club this summer, however, it remains to be seen what role he will play.

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The focus for Heaton will be on proving himself as the club's number one stopper.

That will be a massive challenge given Villa's recent success, but it's one that the former Burnley man must relish.

Heaton is a big personality both on and off the pitch, so while his presence will give Dean Smith a big dilemma, it's ultimately a good problem to have.

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