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Petrov Blow Paves Way for Sidwell with Delph Ahead of Schedule

Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov faces two months on the sidelines with knee ligament damage. The injury which the midfielder picked up in the first half of the 1-0 defeat to Sunderland is worse than manager Gerard Houllier had first feared. The Frenchman confirmed that the 31-year-old faced a lengthy lay-off at Villa’s open training session at Villa Park today. The Bulgarian will now face a scan next week to determine whether surgery is required on the injury that is already looking to keep him out until the New Year.

The injury is expected to allow Steve Sidwell a chance to stake a claim for a starting berth after replacing Petrov against Sunderland. The former Reading and Chelsea man will be looking to follow the example of Nigel Reo-Coker who has arguably been Villa’s top performer this term. The two O’Neill signings looked to be on their way out of the club after falling out of favour with the previous manager but injury to Petrov could be the lifeline that Sidwell needs to revive an unfortunate spell at the club. Houllier announced his disappointment at the loss of his skipper after encouraging signs of return to form against Chelsea last week.

“We have lost Stiliyan Petrov for maybe two months. We will know whether he needs an operation by the middle of the week. It’s a shame because he was getting back to a good level.”

Sidwell faces competition from the likes of Barry Bannan who will be hoping that a Carling Cup tie against Burnley will give him another chance to showcase his talents. The young Scot has had an extremely encouraging start to the season after a first Premier League appearance on the opening day was backed up by a first senior goal against Rapid Vienna. The tricky midfielder has also scored for his country recently at Under-21 level and netted a superb hat-trick to defeat Man Utd’s reserves last month.

On a more positive note regarding injury news, long time absentee Fabian Delph is ahead of schedule for a return to the first team. Delph acquired the knee ligament damage in training that has kept him out since April but has returned to training a month earlier than expected. The Villa physio team and backroom staff are keen to keep the youngster wrapped up for a little while yet as an exacerbation to such a serious injury at his age could be dangerous. The ex-Leeds man is excited about the prospect of a New Year return after engaging in some ball work in training in recent weeks.



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