Noel Whelan claims that Aston Villa boss Dean Smith is set to swing the axe on one of his first-team stars with Jack Grealish returning from his injury layoff.

The former Leeds striker, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, says that the English maestro is almost a certainty to line up against Newcastle United on Monday night, naming Scotland star John McGinn as another guaranteed a place in the lineup.

Smith named McGinn alongside Douglas Luiz and Marvelous Nakamba for the 2-1 defeat to Wolves prior to the international break, the Brazilian having come into the starting XI in Grealish’s absence.

However, with Smith confirming that Grealish had been in training all week ahead of the clash against Newcastle, Whelan says that one of Douglas or Nakamba are facing being dropped from the side.

Asked if Grealish would head straight back into the starting XI, Whelan told Football Insider: “Yeah, I think he goes straight in. Grealish, top player, started the season really well for Aston Villa and I think you need him.

“He’s their captain as well, when he is fit and fully fit, he goes straight back in and with Grealish in there he gives you something the other players can’t. He’s great on the ball, it’s hard to knock him off, he loves to get forward, he does the defensive duties. He’s really important to them staying in the Premier League.

“There’s no doubt Dean Smith will be throwing him straight back in alongside McGinn. Whoever else plays in that midfield, that’s the fight.” 

Grealish started the opening 10 games for Villa on their return to the Premier League but was forced to the sidelines for their last two outings, both of which ended in defeat to Liverpool and Wolves.

The Villans head into Monday’s clash sitting 17th in the Premier League table, one point and one place above the relegation zone.

In other Aston Villa news, Darren Bent has named one fan favourite as the “perfect” signing for Jose Mourinho at Tottenham.