2 October 2014 18:36
Paul Lambert hopes he will be able to include Christian Benteke in Aston Villa’s squad for their Premier League clash with Manchester City.
The Belgium international, who boasts 29 goals from 60 appearances in England’s top flight, has not featured for Villa since the end of March due to a torn Achilles tendon.
Benteke’s injury, which he sustained during a training session, kept him out of the remainder of the 2013-14 campaign, as well as the World Cup in Brazil where Belgium reached the quarter-finals.
However, he returned to action in the Under-21 Premier League on Monday and found the net in a 3-0 win over Bolton Wanderers, before being withdrawn shortly after the hour mark.
Lambert has confirmed that a final check on Benteke’s fitness will be made on Friday, while captain Ron Vlaar is a doubt for Saturday’s game at Villa Park with a calf problem.
“If everything goes okay and he feels okay, then I will put Christian in the squad,” said Villa’s manager.
“He’s come through the last few weeks unscathed. We will see how he is but my intention is that he’ll be in the squad.
“First and foremost, his leg is better – his Achilles is okay. He has no ill effects on it whatsoever.
“He came through the U21s pretty good and trained for the rest of the week.”
Villa won last term’s corresponding fixture 3-2 with Andreas Weimann scoring the decisive goal, and the Austria international is hoping for a repeat showing this time around.
“That win last season at Villa Park was a fantastic moment in the season,” said Weimann. “We were clinical on the day, we took our chances and we were rewarded with a great win.
“It was a really good afternoon and it would be great to experience that feeling again.”
Villa’s strong start to the season has been undermined somewhat by back-to-back 3-0 defeats against Arsenal and Chelsea in their last two outings.
Defending champions City, meanwhile, have yet to hit the heights of the previous campaign, with midfielder Yaya Toure – so influential during the 2013-14 season – coming in for criticism for what some onlookers have perceived to be lacklustre displays.
Captain Vincent Kompany has jumped to the defence of his team-mate, but City will be desperate to get the most out of the Ivory Coast international as they seek to avoid falling too far behind leaders Chelsea.
After six matches, City trail Jose Mourinho’s men by five points. With Chelsea due to play Arsenal on Sunday, a win over Villa would see Manuel Pellegrini’s side place a degree of extra pressure on their rivals ahead of the meeting at Stamford Bridge.
City, who drew 1-1 with Roma in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, continue to be without Samir Nasri (groin), while Stevan Jovetic (hamstring) and Fernando (groin) remain doubtful.