Alan Hutton has tipped Dean Smith to name the returning Ross Barkley among the Aston Villa substitutes against Crystal Palace on Boxing Day.
Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, the former Villa and Scotland defender lifted the lid on conversations with his old boss about his thoughts on players coming back from injury going straight back into the starting XI.
As quoted by the Express and Star, Smith confirmed that Barkley, 27, will be fit to take part against the Eagles after choosing not to risk the midfielder in the 3-0 win over West Brom.
Barkley has not featured for Villa since limping off early in the 2-1 defeat to Brighton back in November.
However, Hutton has suggested the Chelsea loanee will have to wait before stepping back into the starting XI as he pointed to conversations he helped with Smith when he was injured.
Asked if he thought Barkley would start against Palace, Hutton told Football Insider: “I don’t think so. I don’t think so. If I’m Dean Smith, I have to keep the team the same.
“I remember having those conversations with him when I was out with my injury with my knee when we went for promotion. Elmohamady was playing well, the team was playing well, 10 games in a row they’d won – he has to keep the same team.
“I mean Barkley’s a fantastic player and he obviously will come back in but I think for the upcoming games – I mean, obviously, there’s a lot so you can rotate, which is a kind of easy way out of it, but I think the team should stay the same for the next game.”
Barkley has managed to play just six times for Villa since joining on loan from Chelsea earlier this season, with one goal under his belt.