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Dunne close to return

Richard Dunne hopes to return to Aston Villa training later this week and put an injury-ravaged six months behind him.

• Blog: Not quite rock bottom

Dunne, 33, is out of contract in the summer and is yet to play a game for the Villans this season after undergoing three operations since August to fix groin and hip complaints.

With captain and fellow defender Ron Vlaar also sidelined with a calf problem Villa have been short of experience and manager Paul Lambert is eager to welcome the Republic of Ireland international back into the first-team fold.

"If you look when Richard did his shoulder, he only came back for a couple of games and then had the groin problem at the Euros," Lambert said.

"He's not played much football for a year really. But the (latest) operation in America was successful and the main thing for everyone is to get him back fit."

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