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Ross Barkley suffers hamstring injury to hand Aston Villa devastating blow

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Aston Villa fans will be worried over the fitness of Ross Barkley.

Dean Smith was forced to withdraw the Chelsea loanee during the opening stages of their clash against Brighton, shortly before Danny Welbeck scored the opening goal.

The 26-year-old was seen clutching his hamstring after taking an attacking free-kick, and was substituted for Bertrand Traore after only five minutes of play.

Barkley has managed three goals and an assist since joining on a season-long loan, but he now faces a spell on the sidelines having struggled for fitness in the past.

Former Everton midfielder Tim Cahill told BBC Sport of the injury: That's just a freak accident. “It could be the warm up – Ross Barkley's muscles could still be cold.

“It changes the dynamic to Aston Villa going forward. They will have to adjust.”

With Rob Green adding: “That's a real blow for Ross Barkley he was getting some consistent games and getting to play well he was really starting to pose a threat to the opposition.

“He was flying against Arsenal in the last game.”

Smith had only recently backed Barkley to force his way back into England plans while on loan at Villa Park, he said: "It's a great four months coming up for him.

“He's playing for Aston Villa and he knows he's got four months of hard work and good performances to show everybody that he should be in that squad.

"In the little time I've worked with him so far, his attitude and application have been first-class. Long may that continue.

"There's still time for him [to get in the squad for the Euros], I believe so. He's a quality player and I'm thankful that he's working with Villa at the moment, and I’m thankful to Chelsea for loaning him."

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