Manchester United loanee Axel Tuanzebe has barely featured for Aston Villa following the sacking of Dean Smith.
The 24-year-old had made six Premier League starts from the opening 11 games of the new campaign under Smith.
But since Steven Gerrard has took over the helm at Villa Park, the centre back has played just eight minutes of football from seven games.
Unlike his predecessor, the former Liverpool and England midfielder has favoured a back four instead of back five, and has stuck with Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa as his centre back partnership.
In Villa’s 3-1 defeat against Chelsea on Boxing Day, club captain Mings received his fifth booking of the season which means he is suspended for the trip to Brentford on Sunday.
Kortney Hause, who scored the winner at Old Trafford earlier in the campaign, is another option for the former Rangers manager, but the centre back hasn’t featured at all since Gerrard was appointed.
So it seems that Tuanzebe is going to get a rare opportunity to stake his claim which he must grasp.
However, even if the former England under-21 international does impress Gerrard against the Bees, he won’t be able to retain his place in the following two games.
That’s because Villa travel to Manchester United in the FA Cup third round and Tuanzebe is ineligible to play against his parent club.
And after the FA Cup clash, Ralf Rangnick’s Reds travel to Villa Park for the reverse Premier League clash, which Tuanzebe will also be unable to feature in.
Following the trip to Thomas Frank’s Brentford, the next Villa game Tuanzebe will be able to feature in will be the clash against Everton on 22 January.
Axel Tuanzebe linked with Napoli move
With uncertainty growing about Tuanzebe’s prospects of regular game time under Gerrard, Italian giants Napoli have been credited with an interest in the Manchester United academy graduate, according to Di Marzio.
Aurelio De Laurentiis’ club is interested in the player and has started contacts with the Red Devils to understand if there is the possibility of moving from one loan to another.
With Kalidou Koulibaly heading for the African Cup of Nations with Senegal and Kostas Manolas returning to Olympiakos after two years at Napoli, Luciano Spalletti’s side are seemingly looking for cover at the back.
According to transfer expert Fabrizio Romano, Napoli are already in contact with Manchester United to discuss potential loan fee and buy option for Tuanzebe.
A lot will depend on whether the Villains are willing to cut short Tuanzebe’s season-long loan. It will be interesting to see how this develops, but it sounds like a deal that suits all parties could be reached.
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