By Alex McLeish

17th Dec, 2020 | 7:00am

McLeish Exclusive: Smith has impossible task as Villa main man ruled out tonight

Dean Smith will find it nearly impossible to replace main man Douglas Luiz in the Aston Villa starting XI against Burnley on Thursday, according to Alex McLeish.

The former Villa and Scotland boss, speaking exclusively to Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, has been left raving over the 22-year-old in his “specialist” role and insisted he was an “inspiration” to his teammates.

The Brazilian defensive midfielder will be missing against the Clarets at Villa Park after he was sent off for two yellow cards in the 1-0 win over Wolves.

He is now set to miss his first game of the season, having started all 10 of the Villans’ top-flight matches so far.

McLeish has lauded Luiz for his role in keeping the opposition at bay under Dean Smith and admitted it would be tough for anyone to fill his boots on Thursday.

Asked if he thought losing the midfielder was a big blow for Villa, McLeish told Football Insider: “Dead right, he’s a specialist. The more I’ve seen of Luiz, the more I’ve been impressed.

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“When I see him in that Aston Villa team, I’m thinking: ‘They’ve got chance today, they are probably not going to lose too many goals with that guy in front of the back four’.

“He reads the game well, he’s just playing for his country, he’s got all the confidence in the world, he’s Brazilian and he’s playing in the Premier League, and he is an inspiration to all his teammates.

“Who can come in and play that role, does Dean change the system a little bit?

“One thing’s for sure, it’s a key player and when you lose key players then you know that Villa will have to make sure that the replacement has got the skills necessary to emulate and do what Luiz did.”

In other news, Gabby Agbonlahor has been left head over heels after major development at Aston Villa.