By Anthony Onifade

7th Nov, 2023 | 5:10pm

Alex Moreno faces fresh fight for Aston Villa first-team spot after what Lucas Digne did v Nottingham Forest

Alex Moreno may well be gearing up for his long-awaited return from injury at Aston Villa very soon but the Spaniard faces a tough fight to win his spot back with Lucas Digne currently impressing.

The left-back sustained a hamstring injury in the 1-1 draw against Liverpool at Anfield back in May and hasn’t featured for Villa since then.

Moreno had returned to the matchday squad against Crystal Palace but did not travel with the squad to Stamford Bridge in September as Unai Emery claimed (via journalist John Townley, 24 September) he was not 100 per cent comfortable to compete.

It emerged that Moreno suffered a setback as he aimed to return to full fitness, like Jacob Ramsey a week later.

Before Sunday’s 4-1 win over West Ham, Emery claimed that Moreno is progressing well and will not only be set to return to training but also in the matchday squads in the near future.

However, the former Real Betis left-back was spotted in training in Bodymoor Heath training last week as he stepped his recovery from the hamstring injury.

And Moreno could well be gearing up for his first start of the campaign against AZ Alkmaar on Thursday (9 November) in their Europa Conference League group stage clash at Villa Park, should Emery choose to rest Lucas Digne for the game.

Moreno made 19 Premier League appearances after becoming boss Unai Emery’s first signing when he joined in a £13million move from Real Betis in January this year, establishing himself as a regular starter before his injury.

Moreno was terrific for the Villans last season, recording three assists from his 19 league appearances, topping his expected assists (xA) of 2.58, averaging 1.2 key passes, completing 46% of his dribbles and also averaging 1.2 tackles per game [SofaScore].

According to the Opta-powered stats at FBREF, over the last year, out of every full-back in the top five European leagues, Moreno is in the 96th percentile of players for progressive carries (3.87) and the top 20% of his counterparts for progressive passes received (6.16 per 90) and successful take-ons (1.24 per 90).

Moreno’s attacking qualities have been well documented, and in an Aston Villa side that alters their tactical framework to allow their full-backs to bomb forward, it has proven the perfect match.

However, it may be a while before the Spaniard is considered a regular starter in Birmingham again after Digne’s impressive form which continued against Nottingham Forest on Sunday, despite their damaging 2-0 loss.

As per SofaScore, the Frenchman proved the Villans’ best player on the park, picking up a 7.4/10 rating, successfully completing 88% of his passes, completing two of his three dribbles, winning a whopping ten duels, recording 96 touches, four key passes, and completing four of his crosses in an eventful display at the City Ground.

The former Everton defender has certainly stepped up in Moreno’s absence after struggling to acclimatise himself at Villa Park for much of last season.

So far, Digne has registered one goal and two assists in all competitions so far this campaign, as well as averaging 2.0 key passes, 1.5 interceptions and 1.8 tackles in the Premier League (SofaScore) meaning he is well on course to keep his starting role in the coming weeks which gives Moreno a mountain task to claim his regular spot back at Villa Park.

In other Aston Villa news, one Villa star is in the “form of his career” this season.