Villa boss Paul Lambert defends his selection of Cleverley

Chelsea's Serbian midfielder Nemanja Matic (L) vies with Aston Villa's English midfielder Tom Cleverley

Aston Villa chief Paul Lambert has defended Tom Cleverley but insisted the Manchester United loanee is not guaranteed a starting spot.

The midfielder was substituted to ironic jeers from a section of the home supporters in Saturday's 2-1 defeat to Chelsea.

Cleverley is on a season-long loan from Old Trafford and his contract at United expires at the end of the season. Lambert said there is no agreement with United that the England international will start and he picks Cleverley on merit.

He said: "No, I don't judge whether somebody is on loan. You try and pick a team you think will win a game. I don't pick it through anything else, that is nowhere near it.

"Tom is one of these guys who never hides from the ball. I never criticise anybody for looking for the ball if they make a mistake. It is the same with Carlos (Sanchez) as well and the Arsenal game.

"Tom never hides. He gives it everything he has got, everything to try and do well. He wants to do well here and sometimes that is part and parcel of football. It is not nice to hear."

Cleverley has struggled to make an impact at Villa - who go to Hull tonight - with Lambert's side 16th in the Premier League. Villa have won twice in 20 league games and Lambert feels Cleverley may be trying too hard to improve his and the team's form.

"He may be trying too hard which can go against you. He keeps on going with the ball and that is a big testament for him that he keeps doing it."