Aston Villa fear Jack Grealish could miss another three Premier League matches but insist the club captain will be fit for the European Championships.
Grealish is set to have a scan on his shin injury this weekend and is not expected to return until Villa’s Premier League match with Crystal Palace next month.
The England international has missed nine successive games with the injury, with Villa winning only two of those matches in his absence.
He is ruled out of this weekend’s derby with West Bromwich Albion and Villa believe he may also miss the matches against Everton and Manchester United.
The game against Palace, which is likely to be moved from May 11 to May 12, is currently being targeted as a realistic comeback date for the 25-year-old.
Dean Smith, Villa’s head coach, insists Grealish is recovering well and will definitely return before the end of the season, in time for this summer’s Euro 2020 tournament.
He said: “There’s not really a timeline (on his injury) as such. He’s due to have a scan next week.
“Hopefully that clears it up and we go full board with training. We’ll be guided by the time and the medical practitioners. I have no doubts he’ll be OK for the Euros.”
Analysis: Are Villa’s recent struggles purely down to the absence of Jack Grealish?
Five defeats from the nine matches Grealish has missed only adds more weight to the theory that Villa are too reliant on their talismanic captain.
Smith’s players must detest that “one-man team” narrative yet they have appeared a little lost without Grealish, devoid of any invention or magic in attacking areas.
The form of Chelsea loanee Ross Barkley remains a serious concern after his hamstring injury, while there are also doubts over the consistency of players such as Bertrand Traore and Anwar El Ghazi. Trezeguet, the winger, is out for the season with a knee injury.
Ollie Watkins will run all day but has been deprived of service in areas where he can score. That wonderful pass from Grealish to Watkins in the win over Crystal Palace on Boxing Day seems light years ago.
Villa are in danger of seeing their campaign fizzle out after such an impressive start, and Smith must find a way to make them more threatening.
The summer transfer window could prove crucial once again. For all the money Villa have spent, a proven forward and another creative midfielder, plus more quality in wide areas, remain a priority to alleviate the pressure on Grealish.
One thing is for sure, though: these worries are far easier to deal with than the pressure of avoiding relegation on the final day, as they did last season.