Jack Grealish will not feature in Aston Villa’s clash with Manchester United on Sunday but will start training with his team-mates again this weekend, boss Dean Smith has said.
Club captain Grealish has missed Villa’s last 11 matches due to a shin problem.
Smith told a press conference on Friday: “It will be 12 games that he misses. He’s out on the grass loading the injury, so he’s on his way back, but this game will be too soon for him.
“He starts training with the actual group tomorrow.”
Grealish suffered a setback in his recovery last month.
Smith added: “As I’ve said many times, we want him back as soon as possible, but we’ve got to do it right as well.
“We obviously had a spike in his loading last time and we had a reaction, so we have to make sure that we’re very conservative with our approach this time with it.
“He’s itching to get back, we’re itching to get him back, but we’re led by the medical staff.”
The England midfielder earlier this week said he hoped to be back in action in “a week to 10 days”.
When asked if fans would see Grealish in a Villa shirt again before the end of the season, Smith said: “Yes, definitely.”
Last weekend United’s home match against Liverpool was postponed due to protests by Red Devils fans against the club’s owners the Glazer family.
Events at Old Trafford included supporters invading the stadium, while fans also made their frustration known outside the team hotel. Six police officers were injured amid the demonstrations.
The match was subsequently rearranged for next week, part of a run of three games in five days for United that starts with the clash at Villa Park.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men sealed a place in the Europa League final on Thursday as a 3-2 defeat at Roma saw them triumph 8-5 on aggregate.
Asked how much he thought all that had happened in terms of United over the last few days would affect Sunday’s game, Smith said: “I don’t think it will affect Manchester United.
“It’s a big enough club, it’s been dealing with European competition for the last 25 years, so it knows how to deal with that.
“We saw what happened at the weekend, with the Liverpool game being postponed, and while we respect everybody’s right to protest, I echo Ole’s statement after, suggesting you have to do it in the right way. We don’t expect any more of those protests at the weekend.
“Manchester United have got a lot of games to play, they’ve got a cup final to look forward to now, and they’ll be looking to cement their second-placed spot. They’ve done very well this season and we know we are coming up against a very good team.”
Smith did not speak in the broadcast section of the press conference about reports emerging on Thursday that Villa had offered to host the Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea currently scheduled to take place in Istanbul on May 29.
The PA news agency understands that while Villa would be happy for their ground to be considered for the final should it be moved, they acknowledge that UEFA has said the venue is not changing.
It is also understood that significant upgrading at Villa Park would be required to make it compliant.
The Turkish Football Federation launched a dedicated website for Istanbul’s hosting of the match on Friday, which appeared to put to bed any possibility of it being switched.
TFF president Servet Yardimci, who is also a member of UEFA’s ruling executive committee, said: “We have been working diligently with the national authorities and UEFA to ensure that it will be an unforgettable occasion, much like the last final we hosted in 2005.
“Turkey is a country that is passionate about football and our football capital will once again be at the centre of the football world on May 29 when the two best teams in Europe meet at the renovated Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul.”