Benteke and Vlaar in line for crunch Black Cats encounter
Aston Villa 1 Swansea City 1
Paul Lambert is considering rushing back Christian Benteke and Ron Vlaar for Aston Villa's pivotal game at Sunderland on Wednesday.
Lambert's injury problems are piling up but Benteke is expected to return to training today and should be fit for the crucial match.
The Belgian's struggles this season have mirrored those of the Villa team, Benteke having gone almost 12 hours without a goal before his injury, while Vlaar's absence with a calf problem has been damaging defensively.
But the Villa manager is prepared to bring them both back at the Stadium of Light as he attempts to ease growing pressure following another frustrating weekend.
Lambert's position remains secure and while he insists there are no fears of a second successive relegation battle, supporters are running out of patience.
Randy Lerner has not made an appearance for a game at Villa Park this season but Lambert believes the club's American owner will stay focused on the long-term vision.
"Last year Randy said this would be my toughest year ever in football management. He never told me that the second one was still going be hard," said Lambert.
"We've had to bring the wage structure down but if I can get through the first season I can get through anything.
"Randy has supported me all the way and believe it or not, I'm enjoying it.
"Does he enjoy it? I don't know, he's probably like everybody on a rollercoaster, throwing up here and there. He's been in sport for God knows how long, so he understands."
This was another difficult afternoon for Villa, despite Gabriel Agbonlahor's seventh-minute opener, and they have ended 2013 with only five home league wins.
Swansea dominated after falling behind but had only Roland Lamah's first goal in England to show for their hogging of the ball.
Swansea manager Michael Laudrup is determined to sign another forward to ease his own fears of getting sucked into trouble.
"With Michu and Nathan Dyer out injured it is obvious we need a striker because with a couple more injuries I would have to play," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)