By Nick Ware

7th May, 2021 | 4:38pm

Jack Grealish in line for Aston Villa return v Everton

Jack Grealish is in line to return for Aston Villa as they host Everton next Thursday in a potentially crucial Premier League clash.

Villa’s star man has been absent since February 13, missing their last 11 fixtures, including a 2-1 win over the Blues last week.

They managed to get past Carlo Ancelotti’s side without him but that’s been a rare occurrence over the last few months, as it was just their third victory without him.

That’s caused a big blow to any dreams they harboured of European football, though they still retain an outside chance of it should they win their final five games.

Everton are four points better off than the Midlands side and still have a great shot of securing a Europa League berth.

But Villa manager Dean Smith delivered some potentially devastating news to their hopes on Friday.

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“It will be 12 games that he misses,” Smith told Sky Sports.

“He’s out on the grass loading the injury, so he’s on his way back, but this game [versus Manchester United] will be too soon for him.

“He starts training with the actual group tomorrow.”

Smith also said Grealish would “definitely” be back on the pitch before the end of the season.

Great, that’s all we need ahead of a monumental last few weeks of the 2020/21 campaign.

With a visit to runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City on the last matchday, we need to accrue maximum points before that to give us a chance of bringing European football back to Goodison Park next season.

That won’t be helped by the return of Grealish to the Villa side.

He’s a divisive figure amongst rival fanbases but the reality is that he is a talismanic figure who is one of the most, if not the, most creative talents in the division.

That’s exemplified in a number of statistics like a league-high tally of 36 key passes this season, or 0.38 assists per 90, just behind Harry Kane’s 0.40. [Wyscout]

With our defence in disarray against them last week and against Tottenham Hotspur a few weeks ago, the last thing we need is Grealish tormenting them.

He might just strike the final blow to our Europa League hopes if he returns on form next week.

In other Everton news, Bid tabled: Blues in talks to sign son of Sky Sports pundit – Paul Joyce.

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