Aston Villa take on Middlesbrough in a key match in the race for the Championship play-offs on Saturday afternoon, but they will be without a quartet of players for the contest.

After a heavily inconsistent first two-thirds of the campaign, the Villans have caught fire in recent times, and are now launching an all-out assault on the top six in the second tier, a run they will be hoping to maintain against Tony Pulis’ men.

Villa have won their last three matches and have only conceded one goal in that time, so they are in good form at the minute, and were they to win the game they would move to within a point of Middlesbrough and have them right within their sights.

The Villans will be boosted in their chances of picking up that success by the news that Anwar El Ghazi has been passed fit to play, but they remain without Axel Tuanzebe, Alan Hutton, Henri Lansbury and James Chester, who are all out injured.

There was a chance that the winger would miss the game too, after he had to come off against Nottingham Forest in midweek, but he has been passed fit, as Dean Smith confirmed when he gave an update on his squad ahead of the contest.

“Anwar’s arm got trodden on accidentally in the game at the City Ground. He was in a bit of pain. But he’s available for selection, certainly.” The Villa official website quotes him as saying.

“Axel and Henri are doing very well. They are doing some really hard work. It’s like a mini pre-season for them now to get them ready for the Blackburn game after the break.

“James and Alan are more slow-burners. Chezzie has now completed the injections he’s been having into the knee.

“We’re hoping to get him back into light training over the next two weeks. We will see where he goes from there and hopefully he gets no reaction from the knee.

“Alan is back in the building. We gave him time with his family. He’s now doing some light rehab work.”

With Derby County and Bristol City both not in action on Saturday, Villa head into the clash with Middlesbrough knowing that they will catapult themselves into the play-off places with a win, which should be all the motivation they need to keep their impressive recent run going.

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