Double boost for Villa

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Aston Villa could be handed a major boost, with suggestions that long-term absentees Darius Vassell and Thomas Hitzlsperger could return to action this week.

England international Vassell broke an ankle back in October in the Premiership game against Fulham.

The pacey striker's goals have been missed this season, with loan man Carlton Cole yet to gel with an out-of-form Juan Pablo Angel.

However, Vassell is now pencilled in to play against Manchester United in a reserve team game on Thursday.

Another player expected to feature in the game, which will be hosted at Walsall's Bescot Stadium, is Germany international Hitzlsperger who has been out since straining a thigh late last year.