Noel Whelan has backed Dean Smith to be extra cautious about bringing Jack Grealish back into the Aston Villa starting XI.
The former Premier League striker, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, insisted the Villans cannot take any risks on their talisman ahead of the European Championships this summer.
As quoted by the Birmingham Mail, Dean Smith confirmed Grealish would not start against Crystal Palace on Sunday after his substitute outing versus Everton.
The 25-year-old came off the bench to play 20 minutes against the Toffees.
It was his first appearance since suffering a leg injury back in February.
The attacking midfielder missed 12 games as a result.
With a potential England place on the cards, Whelan raised his fears about Grealish picking up a new problem.
Whelan told Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge: “I think they’re doing the right thing.
“Dean Smith knows when you’ve been out for that length of time, it’s going to take a bit of time.
“You don’t want to get another niggle or another injury. It’s about biding your time with Jack Grealish now, making sure he’s 100 per cent.
“There’s nothing to play for. Yes, there’s still points on the board that can be won and they can climb a bit further up the table.
“However, when it comes to an individual player, he knows he’s going to be going into the Euros as well. His season is going to be prolonged.
“It’s more beneficial for England and Aston Villa you send him out there as fit as possible. Probably as refreshed as possible as well.”
Grealish has scored six goals and contributed 12 assists in 23 Premier League appearances this term.
Villa won just three games during his absence.