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Thursday 12 December 2019

Aston Villa boss Remi Garde gives Libor Kozak no guarantees despite midweek run

Libor Kozak may yet leave Aston Villa
Libor Kozak may yet leave Aston Villa

Boss Remi Garde refused to rule out letting Libor Kozak leave Aston Villa - despite the forgotten striker's return.

Forward Kozak made his first Barclays Premier League start for more than two years when he featured in Tuesday's 1-0 win over Crystal Palace.

He is again on stand-by to start in Saturday's visit of Leicester as bottom club Villa try to close the eight-point gap to safety.

Birmingham tried to take Kozak, who suffered a broken leg in January 2014, on loan earlier in the season while Garde has previously said he can leave this month and has offered no guarantees he will stay.

He said: "He is still an Aston Villa player, we'll wait and see. I have no offers on the table at the moment.

"I was pleased with the way he played - I would have liked one or two goals and probably he has the same feeling - but he gave me an answer in the first month we had together.

"He worked very hard with a very good attitude in the training sessions, it's why I thought I could give him an opportunity to play.

"I watched the game again and for the first game it was very interesting."

Garde is keen on adding to his struggling squad and wants Chelsea's Loic Remy and Arsenal's Mathieu Debuchy, while he also is interested in Bordeaux defender Lamine Sane. However, he kept quiet on any potential deals.

He said: "I don't want to be too accurate. It won't help me to sign them. I know it's important for you. Sometimes what I read in the media is right and sometimes it's wrong.

"I don't know exactly what close means. Until the signature has been put on the paper, you can be close and miss it."

Skipper Micah Richards is fit to face Leicester after an ankle problem while Jack Grealish (tonsilitis), Gabriel Agbonlahor (back) and Carlos Sanchez (hamstring) have returned to training.

Garde added: "It could be the same team but we still have two training sessions, we will assess the situation of a few players.

"Micah is fully fit, if really needed he could have played on Tuesday but sometimes when we have two or three games in a row it could be not the best to play him."

Meanwhile, Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri has told his players to enjoy the sweet taste of success after their bitter struggle last season.

The Foxes are second, behind Arsenal on goal difference, in the Barclays Premier League ahead of the trip to Villa.

Wednesday's 1-0 win at Tottenham underlined their title credentials and continued a stunning turnaround from last year.

Leicester beat the drop after winning seven of their final nine games under former boss Nigel Pearson despite spending most of the season rooted in the relegation zone.

The Foxes have lost just twice this season and Ranieri insisted they need to revel in the change.

He said: "This is a young team and because last season was about fighting for survival they know the bitter taste of fighting at the bottom. Now they taste the cake at the top of the table and the difference is very high.

"I try to motivate my players but it's important they have the right mentality. I want to see our performance and, after, the result is not important for me.

"I told my players 'you fight' - afterwards we look at which mistake you made and then we look at it in training."

Arsenal go to Stoke on Sunday so a point at Villa Park would be enough to take the Foxes back to the top of the table when they play in the evening kick off.

Villa ended their 19-match winless run with a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Tuesday and Ranieri, without Jeff Schlupp (hamstring), believes they could be a harder proposition than Tottenham.

He added: "I know now there is another tough match, perhaps tougher than Tottenham. Villa are a good team and I remember the first game and how difficult it was to beat them (Leicester won 3-2 after being 2-0 down). They have won their last match and are now confident."

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