Aston Villa’s incumbent right fullback Ahmed Elmohamady was injured in the waning stages of the club’s first leg win over Middlesbrough. With the return leg at famed Villa Park in 72 hours, the seldom used 20-year old could be handed a start.
Ahmed Elmohamady may not have been Villa’s best player in the club’s first leg victory over Middlesbrough, but he has been the most consistent right back in the claret and blue kit this year. Elmo, of course, was injured with what looked to be a right hamstring strain minutes before the final whistle.
This is problematic for Villa on two fronts. For one, they are trying to hold onto a narrow 1-0 play-off semi-final lead! And they might be missing a key member of the backline! But secondly, and possibly more importantly, a pair of fullbacks remain sidelined with soft tissue injuries of their own. Reserve defender Axel Tuanzebe, on-loan from Manchester United, is out for the remainder of the campaign with a calf injury. While he didn’t feature much after joining in January, reports suggest two two clubs mutually agreed to extend the loan through next season as well.
Get better, Axel.
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Moreover, left back Neil Taylor remains sidelined with a hamstring strain of his own. He was ruled out for Saturday’s clash, which presumably takes him out of the running for Tuesday as well. With no other left back on the roster, the Scottish Roberto Carlos, Alan Hutton, has made the position his own for extended periods this year.
With no other fullbacks available, Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce will likely call upon 20-year old James Bree to man the right back position. Bree, signed back in January 2017 for a cool £3 million from Barnsley, has only enjoyed 405 minutes of league football this season due to heavy competition.
While he’s added 3 other cup performances, and several run-outs with the under-23s, Bree has not played a ton this season. Some of which has even come at a different position, center back. If Elmohamady is not fit to proceed, Villa do not have a ton of other options outside of Bree. Birkir Bjarnason is a possibility on one of the sides, I suppose, but there is a decent chance he gets called into central midfield duty.
James Bree was signed as the “right back of the future” after 61 appearances for Barnsley as a teenager. With (hopefully) 2 matches left to play, he has that very chance to supplant himself into that conversation. UTV.