Belfast Telegraph

Bony gets Monk vote

Swansea manager Garry Monk has labelled Aston Villa's in-form striker Christian Benteke a Boxing Day threat - but has hinted he would not swap him for his own powerhouse forward Wilfried Bony.

Belgian powerhouse Benteke has been back to his best in recent weeks following injury and suspension, grabbing a superb solo winner in Villa's victory at Crystal Palace before scoring possibly an even better goal in the 1-1 draw against Manchester United last weekend.

It has been a long road back for Benteke who missed six months and the World Cup after rupturing an Achilles tendon last March, but Ivory Coast striker Bony has had a profitable 2014, with his 20 goals making him the top scorer in the Barclays Premier League in the calendar year.

"They're both very powerful but have different types of game," Monk said ahead of Villa's Boxing Day visit to the Liberty Stadium.

"I would say Benteke is more mobile, a run-the-channels type and probably covers more yards than Bony. But Bony is more effective in what he does.

"They're very much quality players and Benteke's coming into a bit of form now, but I always knew he would.

"He's always been a good player, he had that serious injury and it always takes a little bit of time to get back that sharpness.

"That only comes with games but he's looking sharp now.

"He's a big threat to us and we're going to have to deal with it."

Benteke's return following his dismissal against Tottenham at the start of November has coincided with an upturn in Villa fortunes, Paul Lambert's side taking seven points from the last 12 on offer.

Gabriel Agbonlahor is available after having his red card against United rescinded on Tuesday and Monk is wary of the visitors even though eighth-placed Swansea are four places and five points better off than Villa.

"They've got good players all over the pitch attacking-wise and it's a game where we have to be very much on our toes," Monk said.

Monk made seven changes for last weekend's 1-0 win at Hull and Leon Britton, Jefferson Montero and Gylfi Sigurdsson could all return after niggles but the Swansea boss admits there will be plenty of squad rotation over the festive programme.

Swansea hit the road after the Villa game with league trips to Liverpool and QPR preceding an FA Cup third-round tie at League Two strugglers Tranmere on January 3.

Aston Villa captain Ron Vlaar is desperate to end his injury struggles and reignite his season.

The Dutch skipper has just returned from over a month out with a thigh problem and had already been suffering with a calf injury this season.

He has made just nine appearances for Villa this term and has seen Ciaran Clark and Jores Okore form a solid partnership in defence.

But Vlaar returned to start in a back three with Clark and Okore for the 1-1 draw with Manchester United on Saturday.

The trio are expected to line up together at Swansea and Vlaar is eager to finally cement himself back in the side.

"It's been a strange season - played a few games, injured, played a few games, injured," said the Holland international.

"So let's hope I stay fit now. I believe in that. I trust in that.

"With the team it's going quite well to be honest. It's been hard to sit in the stands and watch the games when I've been injured but it's great to be back and it was good to play a full 90 minutes on Saturday.

"Let's push on now for more. It's too bad that we lost our unbeaten run against West Brom but let's hope we started it again on Saturday.

"Against United, we had some opportunities at the end. We were a little bit unlucky.

"We worked really hard. It was really good to be part of it. If we do that in every game, we will be hard to beat.

"I am used to the three-man defence. In the summer we did the same with the national team. We did it a few times last year too."

Okore has returned this season after suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury last term and Vlaar praised the Denmark international on his comeback.

"I think Jores and Ciaran are doing well. I have been pleased to see that, especially with Jores after his tough season last year with the big injury he had," Vlaar told Villa's official site.

"He has now come back and he's a great player.

"It's not always been easy for Ciaran but he stepped up and did great.

"I think I had to be lucky that the manager chose three central defenders.

"Everyone is pushing everyone else forward which is great for the team."


From Belfast Telegraph