By Alex McLeish

25th Nov, 2020 | 8:00pm

'Big blow' - Exclusive: McLeish reacts to critical Villa news from Express & Star

Aston Villa have been dealt a “big blow” after Ross Barkley suffered a hamstring injury against Brighton, according to Alex McLeish.

The former Villa and Scotland boss, speaking exclusively to Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, has lauded the 26-year-old for his “special performances” since joining the club on loan from Chelsea.

The attacking midfielder was forced off after just five minutes in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat and, as reported by the Express and Star, is expected to miss at least two of the Villans’ upcoming games.

Barkley quickly established himself as a mainstay for Dean Smith since moving from Stamford Bridge and had played the full 90 minutes in his opening five games for Villa.

McLeish believes the current manager will have seen Brighton as a winnable game and that losing one of his star men will have rubbed salt in the wounds.

Asked if the plans go out the window when you lose a player of Barkley’s quality, McLeish told Football Insider: “Yeah, that’s a key player. We talk about the influence of key players in a team and if you lose them.

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“We’ve seen Celtic lose a few and other teams in different instances, Aberdeen not quite at their level, so yes, I definitely think that was a big blow.

“Barkley’s come in and he’s put in special performances and he’s brought his gravitas to the team. You see they lost the game, a controversial penalty decision at the end, but they will feel that that is a game lost (that they could have won).

“The managers will look at fixtures over a season and Dean Smith will say: ‘I’ve got to win these home games against Brighton, possibly our rivals mid-table.’

“I know Villa are up there at the moment but that Brighton team’s a good footballing team, you can’t underestimate them and unfortunately Barkley wasn’t able to help them.”

In other Aston Villa news, Premier League giants tipped to trigger ‘Extremely cheap’ Villa player release clause.