Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish will be out for another “few weeks” after suffering a setback in his recovery from injury, says head coach Dean Smith.
The news is a major blow to Villa, who have already been without Grealish for their last seven Premier League games as he bids to recover from a shin problem.
Smith’s side have won just two of those seven matches and will again be without their talisman for Saturday’s game at Anfield against champions Liverpool.
Smith said: “Myself and Jack were quite optimistic to get him back a bit sooner than he probably should and he’s had a setback that will probably put him back a couple of weeks.
“He was really good in training, but he couldn’t tolerate the loading. It’s a loading injury and we have to de-load him over the next few weeks and get him back from there.
“We know it’s not a long-term injury and he will be back. We all, Jack included, probably pushed him back a little bit too quickly. We wanted him to get back and he had a little setback.”
Grealish has been a key player for Villa this season, scoring six goals and creating 12 more to help his boyhood club into the top half of the Premier League table.
The 25-year-old’s performances have seen him break into the England squad, and he has gone on to make five appearances for his country since making his debut against Denmark in September.
His injury kept him out of the most recent England squad for last month’s World Cup Qualifiers, and Gareth Southgate will be keeping an eye on the midfielder’s fitness ahead of this summer’s European Championships.
However, Smith has downplayed suggestions Grealish’s absence from the Villa side could have a bearing on whether he makes the final England squad.
“He’s proved himself already but the one thing for certain is he will be back before the end of the season, and then Gareth (Southgate) has to make a decision whether he thinks he’s right for that,” Smith added.