Belfast Telegraph

Warnock has no sympathy for Villa

Neil Warnock insists he does not have time to feel sorry for Aston Villa and the position they find themselves in following the exit of Roy Keane.

Paul Lambert's side visit Selhurst Park on Tuesday night without a win in nine Barclays Premier League games - a run which leaves them just two points clear of the relegation zone.

Palace go into the game on the back of a credible 1-1 draw at Swansea, with a 3-1 victory over Liverpool in their last outing in front of their own fans.

The four points accrued from those results has moved the Eagles ahead of Tuesday's visitors on goal difference and Warnock is not about to shed any tears for the current plight of Villa.

"You could have said that about us two weeks ago," he said when asked about Lambert's problems at Villa Park.

"You can say that about any of the bottom eight or nine teams. They are all going to have periods where they look like they are in free-fall. It is how you come out of it.

"They will come to Palace knowing one win can turn their season around. We have to be on guard for that.

"The teams around you are the ones you want to pick up points from in the bottom half of the table.

"But Sunderland showed (in a 0-0 draw with Chelsea), that you can take points off anybody on a good day - take each game as it comes and try and get most out of it."

It was announced last week that Keane quit his role as Lambert's assistant, citing a job-share with a similar role with the Republic of Ireland was too much to take on, and now Lambert will be searching for his third right-hand man in eight months.

But that is another issue which Warnock will not treat with sympathy, as he pointed to the fact Palace lost manager Tony Pulis on the eve of the new season - with the 66-year-old left to pick up the pieces.

"I don't think it is more critical than when Tony Pulis left before the first game," insisted Warnock when questioned about the impact of Keane''s departure.

"It is similar. I like Roy Keane, I have got a lot of time for him personally. So whatever went on behind the scenes, Paul agreed to it and they move on. He is looking for someone else over the next few weeks. We are all always looking to improve our staff."

Aston Villa boss Lambert hopes the return of striker Christian Benteke from suspension can provide the extra spark his side needs.

Benteke is available again after completing a three-match ban for his sending off against Tottenham a month ago.

His dismissal - for pushing Ryan Mason - came in only his fourth appearance since recovering from the Achilles injury which ruled him out of the World Cup.

The Belgian has been badly missed during a difficult start to the season in which Villa have scored just seven goals in 13 league games. Joe Cole's strike in Saturday's draw with Burnley made him only the third person to get on the Villa scoresheet this term.

Without a win in nine games stretching back to September, and just two points above the relegation zone, Villa are in need of a lift and Lambert is backing the quality of Benteke to provide it.

Lambert said of the 23-year-old: "In my own opinion, when he's on his game I think he's one of the best in Europe, let alone in Britain. I've seen some brilliant strikers in my time and, when that guy's on his game, he's certainly up there. So that's a massive boost to us.

"I think his performance against Spurs indicated that he was getting back (to full match-fitness). He's still going to be match-fitness down because he didn't play for a number of months, but against Spurs I thought he was fantastic for us.

"He's a top player and if he keeps progressing the way he's going then we'll see where his career goes."

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