By Paul Brown
James Milner is in the squad for the opening Barclays Premier League clash against West Ham - and Kevin MacDonald insists the midfield star has both the fitness and mental toughness to cope with the occasion.
Despite only playing 24 minutes of competitive football since the World Cup, MacDonald is adamant Milner could perform this weekend because he is one of the fittest players in the business.
He also backed Milner to handle the occasion and called on the crowd to get behind the PFA Young Player of the Year if selected.
He said: "James is in the squad. The latest regarding him is that there are still talks ongoing. Nothing can be done today obviously to be signed by tomorrow to play. So James in the squad and is available to play for Aston Villa.
"James is one of the fittest players I have ever come across in my life - and I have come across some very fit players in my time.
"The amount of running and work that he has been doing in training would tell me that he would have no problems if he was selected to start for the team.
"James is also a tough lad. I don't think the crowd will affect him but I hope also the crowd won't get on his back.
"I hope that they get behind him and say - whatever happens - he is playing for us today and see what has he done for us over the past couple of years."
On a wider note, despite ongoing talks between Manchester City and Villa, MacDonald admits he'd love Milner to stay.
He added: "I would love James to be playing for Aston Villa for a few years. I think he is a very talented player - obviously he is very sought after by football clubs around the country.
"He would only make our team better if he was to stay."
Meanwhile, in team news, MacDonald revealed Gabby Agbonlahor [back, hamstring], Curtis Davies [knee], Carlos Cuellar [hamstring] and James Collins [calf] will miss out against West Ham through injury.
Tickets are still available for this weekend's clash with the Hammers - click here to snap up some seats.