Aston Villa have been in fine form.
Dean Smith’s side are unbeaten in their last four games and beat Crystal Palace 3-0 on Boxing Day.
In total, they have scored seven goals in their last four outings and have not conceded a goal, beating Wolves 1-0, West Bromwich Albion 3-0, Palace 3-0, and drawing 0-0 with Burnley.
They currently sit sixth in the Premier League with 25 points and have at least one game in hand on all of the clubs above them in the table. Winning that could take them third at present.
They face a defining run of fixtures, though, and play Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, and Everton in the league in the coming weeks.
One player who has been absent in recent weeks, despite Villa’s excellent form, is Ross Barkley.
The 27-year-old, who is on loan at the club from Chelsea, has not played since the 2-1 defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion in November.
And Kevin Phillips believes that the playmaker, who has won 33 caps for England, faces a significant battle to win his place back.
Speaking to Football Insider, the former Premier League striker said: “Barkley might struggle to get into that side with the way (Anwar) El Ghazi and (Bertrand) Traore are playing.
“Dean Smith wasn’t going to throw him straight back in against Palace.
“El Ghazi was fantastic and another goal for Traore. You are never going to drop Jack Grealish or John McGinn who are both just getting better and better.
“The competition is brilliant and that is healthy for Villa.
“It is a great boost for the club to have Barkley coming back and he will be needed because it is a hectic period.”
GIVEMESPORT’S Harry Sherlock says…
Yeah, this is spot on.
Smith has clearly happened upon the best system for Villa and now it is down to Barkley to prove his worth.
As Phillips says, both Grealish and McGinn are central to the way the club play.
The burden of proving himself worthy of selection is on Barkley now; it remains to be seen if he can force Smith’s hand.News Now - Sport News