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El Ghazi must continue good Aston Villa form against Stoke with Grealish ruled out

Jack Grealish is set to miss Aston Villa’s clash with Stoke City at Villa Park tomorrow because of a shin injury picked up in the 2-2 draw against West Brom last Friday.

Dean Smith has confirmed his talismanic playmaker will not face Gary Rowett’s side, with the former Brentford manager understandably wanting to protect him to keep him fit for the busy festive period.

The absence of Grealish, who takes up most of Villa’s creative burden in Smith’s new-look, front-foot side, means that other forwards must take up the mantle.

Smith is not short on options and one man who has come from nowhere of late to make himself a viable contender is Anwar El Ghazi.

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The winger has three goals in his last three games, including two last time out against West Brom and will need to continue that good form as Smith seeks a new source of creativity.

Villa do not have an out and out number 10 to replace Grealish, so a good result over Stoke may well be built on strong work on the wings and El Ghazi will be key to getting the three points.

Grealish’s absence will give Stoke a boost as they look to make a statement of their own promotion credentials; but El Ghazi prolonging his hot form can give Villa all three points.

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