By Alex McLeish

31st Dec, 2020 | 7:00pm

Exclusive: Pundit drops surprise Ross Barkley claim pre-Villa clash v Man United

Alex McLeish has claimed Ross Barkley will struggle to get back into the Aston Villa starting XI because of their fine recent form.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, the former Villa manager insisted the club’s current attacking quartet have made themselves undroppable.

Ollie Watkins, Jack Grealish, Bertrand Traore and Anwar El Ghazi have all started Villa’s last four games with Traore and El Ghazi replacing the injured Barkley and Trezeguet.

 

El Ghazi in particular has been in incredible form, netting five times in his last five Premier League games.

Barkley has not featured for Dean Smith’s side since suffering a hamstring injury against Brighton & Hove Albion on November 21 but is back in contention for the visit to Manchester United on Friday night.

It comes as BirminghamLive reported the Midlands giants are set to open talks with Chelsea about Barkley’s loan move becoming permanent.

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Asked by Football Insider whether the 27-year-old will struggle to win his place back, McLeish said: “Yes.

“He’s out at an unfortunate time because he was obviously in very good form when he was in the team.

“These guys in the team will be entitled to feeling like they’re first choice and the manager would need to have a really good excuse to leave them out.

“It could be a ‘look guys, I’m rotating it, I don’t want you to be overplayed and then risk injuries and losing you further in the season.’

“The gaffer has got to get his script correct if he is going to bring Barkley straight into the team.

“With the current form of Villa, I don’t see that quite happening.

“Maybe Barkley will have to sit on the bench, score a couple of crackers, and get himself in as first choice.”

In other news, Football Insider can reveal an Aston Villa 26-year-old is in line for a January loan move as Smith’s plan has been revealed.