By Will Butcher
Steve Bruce is optimistic that Aston Villa defenders Neil Taylor and James Bree will be fit to face Newcastle on Monday night.
Summer recruits Bree and Taylor both missed Tuesday night’s disappointing loss to Barnsley at Villa Park, which saw the Tykes record a 3-1 win over Bruce’s side.
Bruce was quoted by Aston Villa’s official website as saying that both defenders will be assessed towards the end of the week before making a decision on their availability to face the Toon.
“We are hoping both will be better by the end of the week,” Bruce said.
“James unfortunately has an infected knee and Neil has a cut ankle – a nasty one.
“We will see how they are by the end of the week. Maybe they will be ready for Monday.”
Signed from Barnsley along with midfielder Conor Hourihane, Bree also missed the defeat to Ipswich on Saturday as he continues to nurse a knee problem.
Wales international Taylor has had little luck since his move to the Midlands outfit from Swansea, making just one appearance in claret and blue.
The left-back was suffering through illness before returning against Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich on the weekend, but was substituted in the 77th minute and missed the clash against Barnsley.
Villa are in a dismal run of form under Bruce, with seven losses in their last nine games that has seen them drop into a lowly 16th place, just seven points above the relegation zone.
In contrast, Rafa Benitez’s league leaders Newcastle have secured two wins in their last three games and are favourites to take all three points on Monday night.
In other Aston Villa news, fans have given their verdict on the future of manager Bruce.