EXCLUSIVE

Darren Bent has tipped Aston Villa defender James Chester to oust one of the current centre-backs under Dean Smith as he closes in on a return from injury.

The former Villa and England striker, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, says that he is a big fan of the 30-year-old, who is the Villans’ club captain, and that he has no doubts the former Hull City man will be back in the starting XI when he is fully fit.

Chester has been missing from action since picking up a knee injury back in January, with manager Smith confirming he is finally back in full training.

Bent says that while it will be a battle to take the place of ever-presents Tyrone Mings or Bjorn Engels at the heart of the defence, he is backing the Welsh international to oust one of them and make an impact on the senior side at some point this season.

Bent told Football Insider: “It’s going to be tough for him but I rate him as a defender, I’ve always rated him because he’s never been the biggest but his positional sense is good, he’s good in the air, he’s vocal – I really like him as a defender.

“It’s going to be tough for him to break into that Villa backline but I think at some stage he’ll do it. I’ve got no doubts he’ll do it. Out of the two that are in there at the minute, Mings is the one with England call-up, he’s the main guy.

“He (Chester) will get back in there. I’m pretty sure he’ll get back in at some time. He’s a very good defender and they’re going to need him at some stage.”

Chester played 28 games for Villa last season before being sidelined, with a total of 124 appearances under his belt for the Midlands giants.

While the majority of his career outings have come in the Championship, he still has 60 Premier League matches under his belt, scoring three top-flight goals.

Summer signing Mings and Engels have been Smith’s first-choice pairing at the heart of the defence this season, the pair playing every minute in the league so far.

In other Aston Villa news, Bent has told Football Insider that one Villa ace will be thinking of making a big step up after what he has recently seen.