By Matt Farr

Aston Villa ace James Chester is confident that Gabriel Agbonlahor can provide the goods against Birmingham in the absence of Jonathan Kodjia.

The 30-year-old attacker could be called upon by Steve Bruce to lead the goalscoring charge as Aston Villa take on their Midlands rivals in the Championship on Sunday.

Agbonlahor has not featured since January because of a hamstring injury, but with premier goalscorer Kodjia suspended for the tie, Bruce has few options up his sleeve to accommodate for the crushing blow.

But Chester is under no illusions that Agbonlahor can have the desired impact, despite having yet to register a goal for the club this season.

He told the Birmingham Mail: “He’s made an impact in the games he’s played since the gaffer has come in.

“He’s certainly someone good to have around the place with his experience and especially in these big derby games.

“I’m sure if he’s in the squad he’ll be up for it. I’ve been impressed with Gab since I’ve been here. I’m sure someone can step in and make the difference.”

Kodjia was shown a straight card during Aston Villa’s 3-1 defeat to Fulham last week, for allegedly kicking-out at Ryan Fredericks.

However, following a successful appeal against his initial three-match ban, the Ivory Coast striker had his ban reduced to just one match, meaning he will be available to face both Blackburn and Brighton.

But he will remain sidelined for the crucial Midlands derby clash with rivals Birmingham at Villa Park on Sunday, enabling at least one of Scott Hogan, Rushian Hepburn-Murphy or Agbonlahor to fill his goalscoring boots.

Kodjia has scored 19 goals from 39 Championship appearances this season, and is one strike shy of becoming the first Aston Villa player since Peter Withe to hit 20 league goals in a single season.

In other Aston Villa news, talks have opened as Villa move closer to sealing this midfielder transfer.

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