Carew hands Villa fitness boost

The Norway international has been unavailable for Villa’s last four

games because of a knee problem. But the former Lyon player, who

had lost his place in the starting line-up to Emile Heskey before

the setback, is now back in training and making good progress.

Villa manager Martin O’Neill said: “John has been training the last

few days now and has had no reaction. Therefore, in terms of

fitness, he would be in better condition than he was last week.”

O’Neill will continue to monitor the fitness of skipper Stiliyan

Petrov who has continued playing despite the handicap of an

Achilles problem in recent weeks. The midfielder needed an

injection at half-time during the Carling Cup semi-final, second

leg with Blackburn to enable him to complete the second 45 minutes.

O’Neill said: “We are just going to have to monitor Stiliyan. We

have games coming up and he is keen to play on. This week, with no

midweek match, has given him a bit of a breather. “That is a good

thing but we don’t have too many of those between now and the end

of the season and we will have to see how it goes.” O’Neill has

also admitted he may not have sold midfielder Craig Gardner to

Birmingham last month had Nigel Reo-Coker’s knee injury come to

light earlier. He said: “I think the deal for Gardner had already

been agreed with Birmingham. If there had been a time-scale

difference, I might have reconsidered it.”