By Gabriel Agbonlahor

30th Nov, 2020 | 12:29pm

Agbonlahor Exclusive: Villa 29-yr-old tipped for rare start tonight after big injury update

Gabriel Agbonlahor has tipped Aston Villa midfielder Conor Hourihane to replace the injured Ross Barkley in their starting XI against West Ham tonight.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider correspondent Connor Whitley, the legendary former Villa striker claimed the Irishman was unlucky to lose his place when Barkley arrived on loan in September.

Barkley limped off after five minutes against Brighton & Hove Albion with a hamstring injury and was replaced with winger Bertrand Traore.

Dean Smith revealed on Saturday his injury was not as bad as first feared but he will still miss up to three weeks of action.

Hourihane, 29, was introduced with 15 minutes left against Brighton last week, his first Premier League minutes since the arrival of Barkley.

He started Villa’s first two league games and scored once and provided one assist in their 3-0 win over Fulham in September.

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Agbonlahor has now called on Dean Smith to re-introduce him to his starting XI.

He told Football Insider: “I feel like Conor Hourihane was in great form at the start of the season and he was unlucky to lose his place to Barkley.

“Now Barkley has got injured, I think Hourihane should automatically go back into the side because he helps the balance.

“Him and John McGinn can play as two number eights in front of Douglas Luiz sitting as a  number six.

“I think that’s something that we’ll see against West Ham.”

Hourihane played 27 times in the Premier League last season and featured in all but one game after the restart in June.

He started and provided two crucial assists in their last four games in which they were unbeaten and survived relegation on the final day of the season.

In other news, a ‘tremendous’ Aston Villa player has been tipped for a January exit and it ‘could hurt them’.