Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard has challenged his fringe players to make the best of injuries and prove why they should be a regular part of the team.
Defender Diego Carlos, already without defender Diego Carlos due to a torn Achilles tendon, Gerrard will now have to play with his summer colleague Boubacar Kamara, who will be out until after the World Cup with a knee injury.
Gerrard’s options were further exhausted by the news that full-back Lucas Digne, who suffered from a heel problem, will require an indefinite period of rehabilitation.
There was at least some positive news as 20-year-old striker Cameron Archer was available for the trip to Leeds on Sunday after shaking off an adductor strain and Matty Cash was due to return to training next week as he begins his recovery from a promotes thigh problem.
While the loss of key members of the squad is far from ideal, Gerrard hopes it also offers a chance for others to step in and make a mark for the rest of the campaign.
“You know you’re going to have periods of the season where you’re going to pick up one or more injuries at the same time, so we’ve tried to build a squad to be prepared for those situations,” said Gerrard.
“But for me, there are a lot of people knocking on my door – sometimes they’re frustrated, sometimes they don’t see that they’re very close to an opportunity.
“And now it’s like, ‘Go on, here’s your time, here’s your moment, confirm what you said when you knocked on my door.’
“There will be opportunities for these players and I look forward to seeing how they play.”
Villa travel to Elland Road after three games unbeaten, including a respectable draw against Manchester City in early September.
Gerrard is hoping his side will continue to show some resilience as they prepare for a hectic run of games before the World Cup break.
“The key for us is, can we be solid defensively? Can we build on our last few performances against City, one of the best teams in the world, we limited them to one goal and managed to pull a tie out of the game,” he told a press conference.
“We backed that with a performance that was full of guts, resilience and steel.
“From now on we have to keep that and try to build on those solid performances and if there’s an opportunity in the game to injure Leeds we have to be ready for that.”
Villa have been unbeaten in their last four games at Elland Road, including as the sides went head-to-head in the Sky Bet Championship.
However, Gerrard doesn’t expect Jesse Marsch’s squad to roll out the red carpet.
“We know we’re going into a really hostile environment, so the challenge is big,” he said.
“It’s going to be a tough game, but we’re in good shape ourselves thanks to some positive results.
“We want to go there with confidence and conviction, be really hard to beat and we have enough quality in our team to also hurt Leeds at the right time.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/aston-villa-steven-gerrard-digne-cash-b2188254.html Steven Gerrard is calling on Aston Villa’s fringe players to step up