By Anthony Onifade

30th Mar, 2023 | 7:10pm

Injury boost for Aston Villa as key man Boubacar Kamara set to return v Chelsea

Aston Villa have been handed a major boost to their faint European aspirations as midfielder Boubacar Kamara is set to return from a proposed long injury-lay off against Chelsea on Saturday [1 April].

The French international had to be helped off in the second half of Villa’s 1-0 win over Crystal Palace on 4 March after a dreadful challenge from Eagles midfielder Cheick Doucoure.

The Mirror [8 March, page 58] revealed the former Marseille midfield enforcer was unlikely to return before 8 April – potentially ruling him out of Villa’s next five games.

However, in a major turn of events, The Athletic [29 March] has revealed that the Villans could welcome back Kamara sooner than expected for the trip to Chelsea as his recovery has gone quicker than planned.

Unai Emery [via The Athletic] has confirmed that the Frenchman is likely to join the group on Saturday saying: “This week he has been training with us, and if tomorrow he’s ready and he’s normal, I think I can use him in the squad.”

With the West Midlands outfit looking to push on towards a late surge for European qualification, having their key midfielder back in and around the team could prove vital to their chances as the Frencham provides security in the midfield that none of his teammates could match.

The former Marseille man has enjoyed a superb start to his Villa career, especially under the stewardship of Emery, forming a strong base at the heart of the Villa midfield alongside Douglas Luiz, for which the duo have received glittering praise [BirminghamLive, 2 January] for their efficient and dynamic partnership.

Kamara had played in every Premier League game under Emery before his injury, becoming the rock at the base of their midfield making Villa a tougher unit to break down but also offering the technical brilliance to make Emery’s passing approach work.

The Frenchman mixes technical excellence, composure in possession and terrific aggression and tenacity off the ball to allow the Villans to become efficient without the ball as they have been on it since Emery’s arrival.

In the top flight, the 23-year-old has averaged a rating of 6.84 [SofaScore] across 19 appearances and made 3.4 tackles and interceptions per game – winning 54% of his duels in the middle of the park.

The Marseille-born ace’s 2.5 tackles per match are unmatched within the Villa squad with that emphasising how important the Frenchman has been to the side from a defensive perspective this season, consistently breaking up opposition attacks by winning the ball back for the team.

Kamara ranks third in the Villa team for tackles and interceptions [FBref], fifth for tackles won, third for tackles won in the middle-third and more crucially, no Villa player has made more tackles than him this season (47) and he has a habit of intercepting the ball at crucial times when Emery needs it most.

In comparison to Gerrard’s tenure, Aston Villa have become more intentional and composed in possession and that has indeed been down to the technical brilliance of both Kamara and Luiz in midfield. He ranks fourth within Emery’s squad for progressive carries [FBref], second for progressive passes, fifth for passes into the final third and third for completed short passes.

Emery will be desperately crying out for that kind of composure and invention in the midfield against Graham Potter’s Chelsea on Saturday for which Kamara may provide the telling difference if he does indeed start at Stamford Bridge.

Kamara’s return timely boost for both the player and his manager. The Villans arguably now possess the tools to cause a major upset in the intensifying race for Europe.

In other Aston Villa news, the club has been tipped to sign a new striker to aid their bid to return to European football.