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Four-goal Faris dreams of AFC Cup final

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Stewart Downing closes on Villa return after operation

Stewart Downing has moved a step closer to making his debut for Aston Villa after undergoing surgery to remove a pin in his right foot.

Downing joined Villa from Middlesbrough for a fee of £12 million over the summer despite the fact he had sustained a fractured foot towards the tail end of Boro's failed attempt to avoid relegation last season.

However, an operation on his foot has been successful and Downing could be an option for O'Neill's side in November, according to the Villa manager.

"Stewart has had the operation (to have the pin removed). The specialist is particularly pleased with him, which is great news," O'Neill said. "It is just a matter now of that wound healing and Stewart taking his time.

"I hear he is targeting November. Knowing Stewart, I am surprised he didn't say tomorrow! I think our doctor would be a bit more careful. He is now going to have a couple of days off but he is very buoyant indeed.''

Meanwhile, O'Neill is remaining coy over whether Nigel Reo-Coker will return to the Villa squad for Wednesday's Carling Cup tie against Cardiff City.

Reo-Coker was dropped from the squad to face Portsmouth at the weekend following a training ground row between the pair at Villa's Bodymoor Heath facility and speculation has grown that his future at the club is in doubt.

"I had a conversation with Nigel yesterday. It shall remain private as far as I am concerned," O'Neill said. "If Nigel or close associates want to divulge what was said, that is entirely up to him or them.

"As far as I am concerned what I said to him shall remain private and that's how I'm going to end it. Is Nigel in the squad tomorrow? That's how I'm going to end it. I have not picked the team yet. He trained today with the squad.''

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