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The Aston Villa manager is hopeful that his veteran defender can return to action before the end of the season after undergoing a third operation

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert believes that Republic of Ireland international defender Richard Dunne can return to action for the relegation-battling club by the end of the season.

Dunne was in Philadelphia again this week for a third operation to help his hip and groin problems, having not played a competitive game since the European Championships last summer. Speaking to the club's official website, Lambert remains confident that the 33-year-old can make a return this season. "We will have to wait and see what the surgeon has said about the injury," Lambert said. "Richard is expected home this weekend and we will follow up on what has been decided. I’m pretty sure he won’t require another operation.

"The advice Richard has been given is that he will just have to battle through the problem. I will have a rough idea of what will happen after hearing exactly what the surgeon has been saying to Richard. The surgeon expected this to happen and the advice was to go back and see him again if it did. First and foremost the main thing is to get the guy back to fitness. That is the big thing for me."

Dunne's contract at Villa Park runs out at the end of the season, but Lambert feels that the only thing the defender has to prove is his fitness. "It is not a case of running out of time," Lambert explained. "I know what he can do. It is not as if he is 19 or 20 and has to impress. I have an open mind but the main thing for me is that he is going to be fit again."

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