Villa receive double injury boost
Aston Villa central defender Martin Laursen and striker Luke Moore are poised to give manager Martin O'Neill a new year boost after making rapid progress in their recovery from knee and shoulder setbacks.
Laursen is ahead of schedule after suffering knee ligament damage in the Carling Cup clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in early November.
And Moore is already able to participate in some training sessions after aggravating a shoulder in the Barclays Premiership clash away to Jose Mourinho's side in late September.
O'Neill said: 'Martin is doing well. We knew that if we set Martin a 12-week target, it would be 10 weeks or less.
'We know that's how it works with him and he's doing very well at the moment. He's a bit off yet but it is encouraging to see how he's progressing.
'Luke joined us in a shooting session on Monday which was very encouraging. It wasn't physical contact of any description but it was nice to see him out there with everybody.
'It's the first time we've seen him since the setback and it will have given him a lift.
'In terms of proper physical work, it's too early to be putting Luke into full training sessions but he's recovering more quickly than we first anticipated.'
Moore is due to see American specialist Anthony Miniaci in the near future in the hope of getting the go ahead to make a fully fledged return to training.
There is further encouraging news for O'Neill with Mark Delaney and Jlloyd Samuel also making good progress after lengthy lay-offs.
Delaney has yet to kick a ball in anger this season because of a knee setback while Samuel has been sidelined with a thigh injury since the second game of the campaign.
Samuel completed 90 minutes in a behind closed doors friendly against Wolves on Monday while Delaney is back in training.