BIRMINGHAM – Aston Villa skipper Jack Grealish has recovered from his leg injury but a bout of illness will prevent him from playing against Newcastle United, manager Dean Smith said on Thursday.
Grealish, the club's main playmaker with six goals and 10 assists this season, has missed the last four Premier League matches but Smith said he could be fit in time for their next game against Tottenham Hotspur on March 21.
"You won't see Jack at Newcastle," Smith told reporters ahead of Friday's game. "He's a lot better but it didn't help that he's been ill this week too. Very hopeful that he will be available for selection against Tottenham.
"He takes part in the meetings, he has a voice and an opinion. He's in the training ground. He's maturing an awful lot and takes on a lot of responsibility."
After avoiding relegation on the final day of the season last year, Villa have consolidated their position in the top half of the table this season, sitting ninth with games in hand as they seek European qualification.
"I would have taken it at the beginning of the season. We have progressed a lot quicker than we thought we would this season. We weren't satisfied with last season," Smith said.
"The response to any time we feel we haven't played well has been good. But like many teams, since new year we’ve been up and down."
Newcastle, however, are just one point above the relegation zone and manager Steve Bruce said the international break later this month could not come any sooner with key players such as Callum Wilson, Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin injured.
"We've got no new injuries to report... Everything is going to plan (with Almiron, Saint-Maximin and Wilson)," Bruce said. "Almiron is making particularly good progress which is good news.
"The international break may just do us a favour so let's hope they can keep responding the way they are."