Aston Villa Club Focus – Agbonlahor and Bent expected to be reunited for next weekend

Alex McLeish has tipped his strike partnership of Gabriel Agbonlahor and Darren Bent to be back fit for next weekend’s Premier League clash with high-flying Manchester City. A healthy partnership with the two English forwards will give Villa the confidence to go to the Etihad Stadium and get a positive result against Roberto Mancini’s side.

Agbonlahor has been undergoing treatment during the international break for a recurring back problem and has seen a top specialist in London, who has recommended a course of ailments to get the 24 year old back to full fitness. Bent scored in England’s disappointing 2-2 draw with Montenegro on Friday evening but had previously been suffering with a groin problem for the past few weeks.

McLeish is delighted that the two strikers are back together and their partnership was evident in Villa’s last outing, where Agbonlahor’s magnificent ball was planted home by Bent to seal a 2-0 win for Villa against Wigan.

The Scottish manager said: “They (Agbonlahor and Bent) complement each other well, because Gabby has that fantastic pace and Darren wins the ball in the air. If the two of them can continue to make the ball stick, then there is potential for a partnership that could be really frightening for defenders.”

Sceptics surrounding Aston Villa had doubted the ability of former Birmingham manager McLeish to perform successfully at Villa Park. McLeish has led the Villans to an undefeated start to the season, but that could come under jeopardy at Eastlands against City. Despite the lack of defeats, critics have claimed that Villa are too defensive. Assistant manager Peter Grant has vehemently claimed that that is not the case and that the club have played with four forwards most of the season.

Grant said: “People have to give us credit, because if you look at the sides we have picked so far, we have had four forwards in every game. We have got attacking full-backs and midfield players who like to break forward”.

One of those midfield players is young Scottish international Barry Bannan. The 21 year old played 73 minutes for Scotland in their vital 1-0 win over Liechtenstein on Friday and is becoming a focal point of attention for both club and country. Bannan has laughed off rumours of a move to Manchester United and says he is happy at Villa, slowly coming to terms with the frenzied reaction of fans when he is spotted out in Birmingham.

Bannan said: “It has changed a lot this season. Last season, there was obviously a few that would have notice but now there’s a lot more. It’s strange if you’re out with your girlfriend having a meal. You see people whispering stuff. It’s a bit strange but it’s brilliant.”

Villa will have experienced players such as Shay Given and Richard Dunne back later than the rest of their international representatives, due to the Republic of Ireland’s Tuesday qualifier against Armenia. McLeish has no worries about their fitness and they will start in what will be Villa’s toughest test of the season in Manchester.

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