Saturday 21 April 2018

Benteke - I knew my time would come

Christian Benteke was always confident he would regain his form
Christian Benteke was always confident he would regain his form

Christian Benteke insists he always knew he would get back to his best after a frustrating season - with his recent run of goals putting Aston Villa in a position to maintain their Barclays Premier League status.

The Belgian international had a superb first season at Villa Park - scoring 23 goals and attracting attention from across Europe - and although he remained at the club he did not hit the same heights last year and has seen his third campaign plagued by injury.

A ruptured Achilles tendon in April saw Benteke miss the World Cup and he did not make his comeback until October - by which time Villa were looking at another season of scrapping for their top-flight future under Paul Lambert.

Tim Sherwood was appointed in February after Lambert was sacked and since then Benteke has scored more goals than any other player in the league - including eight in his last six games.

A winning strike against Tottenham on Saturday gave Sherwood a win on his return to White Hart Lane and steered Villa six points clear of the bottom three and Benteke revealed he always had self-belief he would rediscover his devastating touch.

"You know the expectation, it is high," he said. "But when I came back I knew it was going to be hard.

"But I didn't put pressure on myself. I knew my time would come and I would get back to my old level.

"I have a big faith. In life you have some bad times and some good times and maybe now it's my good time and I just try to enjoy it."

Sherwood has overseen three league victories since taking charge at Villa Park and Benteke said he has felt a new lease of life under the former Spurs head coach.

"He give us a lot of confidence and freedom and we try to deal with it," added Benteke.

"He has tried to give me a lot of responsibility and tell the players to play a lot with me, try to be in a position where I can shoot and get some chances. He knows our strengths and he tries to use it, simple."

Sherwood himself said he had talked to Benteke after taking charge as he looked to utilise the goalscoring capabilities of the 24-year-old.

"I think Christian was on the back of being dropped I think," the Villa boss said.

"Yes I've had chats with him, told him what I think of him, and how everyone in Europe seemed to want him a year ago.

"That doesn't just vanish, so let's get him back to firing, let's get him back to training properly, and scoring goals. He's worked hard on the training pitch, everyone else has worked hard behind him."

Benteke has the support of his manager and team-mates as Ron Vlaar, who shackled Harry Kane and Tottenham's other strikers with a classy display in north London, knows the forward's form could be the difference in the battle to survive.

"He's massive and unbelievable for us," the Dutchman said.

"He is our main target. He can score goals and we need his goals to stay up. He gave us a win at Tottenham - which is massive.

"I wouldn't like to play against him. He keeps you sharp in training as well and makes you better. He was unlucky to get that big injury and is back now."

Benteke will be hoping to continue his goalscoring form when Villa take on Liverpool in a Wembley FA Cup semi-final next weekend, although Sherwood will be without suspended Carlos Sanchez after he was sent off late on at Spurs.

Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ciaran Clark could also miss out having been replaced due to injury in the win - which leaves Tottenham down in seventh in the table and with Champions League qualification now looking improbable.

Nacer Chadli, a compatriot of Benteke, believes a discussion is needed amongst the Tottenham squad to ensure their season does not peter out into a mid-table finish.

"We all have to help each other," he said.

"The oldest ones need to help the youngest ones and the youngest ones need to help the oldest ones. That is how the group is working. I guess we need to have a little chat this week to sort it out.

"Probably we will maybe talk about it this week and see what everyone has to say. I don't really know the reason why we have been flat but we have to sort it out that is for sure."

Press Association

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