By Danny Mills

30th Nov, 2020 | 4:00pm

'Huge' blow - Exclusive: Danny Mills reacts to Villa setback pre-West Ham

Danny Mills has claimed it is a “disappointing blow” for Aston Villa manager Dean Smith to be without Ross Barkley.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider correspondent Connor Whitley, the former England and Manchester City defender heaped praise on the England international’s performances in Claret and Blue.

Barkley limped off after five minutes with a hamstring injury in Villa’s 2-1 loss to Brighton & Hove Albion last weekend.

Smith confirmed on Saturday that he’ll miss the trip to London Stadium tonight and could be out for up to three weeks.

He told BirminghamLive: “We’re not going to rush him and we’re going to make sure he’s fully fit because we don’t want to lose him again.”

Asked by Football Insider how the Aston Villa manager will cope without Barkley, Mills said: “That’s a huge disappointment for Dean Smith, it was just seconds into the game that he picked up an injury. 

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“Barkley along with Ollie Watkins and Jack Grealish have worked really well as a three.

“With John McGinn as the driving force and engine behind that, it’s been a really good jigsaw that’s just fitted together straight away.

“Barkley has taken some of the pressure off Grealish, they can share responsibilities a little more.

“Barkley has gone in there with renewed vigour and hope. There’s nothing worse than being on the bench week in, week out at Chelsea.

“It’s given him a new lease of life.

“It’s a disappointing blow for him to be out for any length of time.”

Before limping off against Brighton, Barkley had been an ever-present for Aston Villa since joining on loan from Chelsea in September.

The 26-year-old scored his only Villa goal on his debut for Smith’s side in their 7-2 victory over Premier League champions Liverpool.

In other Aston Villa news, Gabriel Agbonlahor has tipped a 29-year-old for a rare start tonight after a big injury update.