Laursen injury worries Villa

Captain set to miss crucial meeting with Arsenal after tests on damaged knee

Aston Villa have suffered an injury scare with captain Martin Laursen travelling to London yesterday to see a specialist for tests on an injured knee.

The influential central defender is now set to miss the crucial Boxing Day encounter with Arsenal at Villa Park – a game that will help define which of the two clubs finish in the top four of the Premier League this season.

There is concern at Villa over the extent of the Dane's injury and that he may be out for some time, particularly because he has suffered from serious knee damage in the past and was nearly forced to retire after missing the whole of the 2005-06 season.

However, manager Martin O'Neill was keen to stress yesterday that it was Laursen's "good knee" – the right one – that has been hurt following the 1-0 victory over West Ham United on Saturday evening that pushed Villa up to third place in the table.

It is the highest league position they have held for a decade, and leaves them just five points behind the leaders Liverpool and, crucially two points ahead of fifth-placed Arsenal who they are aiming to beat twice in a league season for the first time in 15 years.

O'Neill, however, does have injury concerns about a squad that is one of the smallest in the Premier League and which has been dependent on fewer players than any other so far this season. He said of 31-year-old Laursen: "He's been in London seeing a specialist. He didn't feel it during the course of the game but on Sunday afternoon he felt some soreness on the side of his knee. The scans seem to show there is something there. How long he might be out, I'm not sure. It's the other knee, his good knee. But obviously it's a worry because he's been so brilliant for us."

In Laursen's expected absence, O'Neill hopes to be able to turn to Carlos Cuellar. The Spaniard played poorly in last week's Uefa Cup defeat away to Hamburg, and then suffered a "knock" against West Ham, but it is hoped he will be able to train today and partner Curtis Davies against Arsenal. O'Neill described him as "feeling much better".

If Laursen does not play, it will be interesting to see who O'Neill hands the captaincy to. Having stripped Gareth Barry of the armband during the summer, following his outburst at the delay in his proposed move to Liverpool, O'Neill made Laursen his permanent captain. In his absence, the role has gone to Nigel Reo-Coker, who is likely to play at right-back against Arsenal, but who is far from a certain choice.

O'Neill could select Brad Friedel or Stilian Petrov but it is likely he will revert to Barry, which would cap an impressive turnaround for the midfielder who had set his heart on leaving Villa Park but who the manager still hopes to persuade to sign a new contract. Delivering Champions League football next season would go some way to convincing Barry to stay for what would be the final big contract of his career.

With that in mind, O'Neill is likely to be one of the more active managers during the transfer window even if he admits he is unsure to what extent the club's potential to buy has been hit by the credit crunch and the recession.

Significant funds have been promised by owner Randy Lerner and with the team in such a strong position, O'Neill – who has been fully backed by the American so far – will feel able to ask for more. His priority is an experienced striker, especially with the continuing concerns over John Carew's fitness and the reliance on young players, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable