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Paul Lambert: Benteke return will be huge boost to Villa


Christian Benteke

Christian Benteke

Christian Benteke

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

Benteke is available again for Villa's Premier League trip to Crystal Palace tonight 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."

The return of Benteke would mean some reshuffling of the side after an encouraging display against Burnley.

The link-up play between the forwards, with Gabriel Agbonlahor operating as a lone striker ahead of Cole, Andreas Weimann and Tom Cleverley, was encouraging at Turf Moor. Villa had been on course for victory until conceding an 87th-minute penalty to Danny Ings.

But Lambert has no issue about changing things to accommodate Benteke.

The Scot said: "I've got options all over the place. Gabby can play wide, he can play in behind. There's loads of places I can play him.

"But I think Christian coming back gives us that option of putting him back into it."