Conor Hourihane is set to be a nailed-on starter at Aston Villa after the international break, according to Noel Whelan.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider editor Wayne Veysey, the ex-Leeds United and Coventry City striker hailed the midfielder’s “breathtaking” performance in Saturday’s 5-1 demolition of Norwich City.

Dean Smith had handed Hourihane just his third league start of the season at Carrow Road as he kept Douglas Luiz out of the side.

Whelan insisted that there is no way the Republic of Ireland international will be dropped from the team after the two-week break, following his weekend masterclass.

“Hourihane will be given a run in the starting XI after that, absolutely,” he told Football Insider. “I can’t see Dean Smith taking him out after that performance, he’ll be in for a long time..

“He was absolutely breathtaking – the best of a very impressive bunch. Hourihane was everywhere – creating chances, winning a penalty, scoring a great goal himself.

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“His energy, creativity and workrate was immense, he was absolutely brilliant.” 

Hourihane has started just three of Villa’s eight league matches this season, with John McGinn, Marvelous Nakamba and Luiz the favoured picks in midfield early in the campaign.

Hourihane has made 118 appearances for Villa since signing from Barnsley, scoring 25 goals and supplying 17 assists.

Smith’s side went into the international break 14th in the Premier League table with a haul of eight points, including two wins.

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