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Aston Villa hoping to welcome back Cole, Cleverley and Clark

Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert has his fingers crossed regarding a trio of key players ahead of Thursday's meeting with Crystal Palace.

Midfielder Joe Cole, Manchester United loanee Tom Cleverley and defender Ciaran Clark are all under fitness clouds in the lead-up to the New Year's Day clash with the Eagles but Lambert is hopeful for all of them.

"Joe has trained so he's back in contention," said Lambert.

"I need to see how Ciaran is over the next few days.

"Tom has had a bruised foot for a while but we will see how he does over the next few days but hopefully he will be alright."

Former England international Cole has not played since injuring his hamstring early in the December 2 win at Palace, Cleverley hurt his foot in Sunday's draw with Sunderland and Clark is again available after serving a suspension.

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