Belfast Telegraph

Lambert unfazed by Benteke drought

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert does not have any concerns about Christian Benteke's recent dry spell despite the striker's six-game run without a goal.

The powerful Belgian is Villa's top scorer with five goals this season but is currently enduring a barren spell following a recent hip injury.

Benteke scored 23 last season in a highly impressive debut campaign in the Barclays Premier League and Lambert believes it is unreasonable to expect his forward to hit those heights every week.

"I don't have any concerns whatsoever," said the Scot ahead of Saturday's visit of Sunderland.

"Even if he's not scoring he's still a handful, Christian.

"He'll come through it. I said to him the other day 'you won't play every single game where you score every single goal'. He'll be fine. I know exactly what he's offering to the team so I don't worry about him.

"If you can show me one striker who scores in every game, every minute, then I'll look at it. There's no such thing. I don't have a problem."

Lambert added: "I'm not getting involved in comparing him to other strikers.

"I know the value he has to me and I'll let other people surmise how Christian Benteke rates."

The last time Villa and Sunderland clashed, Lambert's side hammered the Black Cats 6-1 in a crucial victory in the fight against relegation last season.

While that victory helped spur Villa onto safety and allowed them to develop into a better side this season, Sunderland have seemingly gone backwards.

Paolo Di Canio has been sacked since that humiliating night at Villa Park but his successor Gus Poyet is also finding life tough, with the Wearsiders bottom of the table despite a couple of creditable victories.

"I was down there myself last year so I know exactly what it's like," said Lambert.

"You have to battle through it. It's not a nice place to be but there's still a long, long way to go.

"It's hard to judge because Gus has only been there for a few weeks and you're never quite sure. You don't know the lads he's got there.

"They've had a hard start. The last time we played them we won pretty convincingly at that time and everything we hit went in. We're certainly playing well enough to go and win but we'll have to wait and see how Sunderland are."

Lambert insists his side have developed nicely in the last year.

"It's totally different to this time last season for us," he said. "If you look at the games we've played, our points tally is so much better as is the goals against tally. We're so far ahead of where we were last year."

Lambert must decide whether to restore forwards Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann to the starting line-up.

The pair came on as second-half substitutes in Monday's 2-2 draw with local rivals West Brom after recent injuries, along with midfielder Fabian Delph.

All three are available for the Black Cats' visit, as is left-back Antonio Luna after a recent hamstring complaint.


From Belfast Telegraph