Lambert sees value of World Cup
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert hopes the incentive of playing at next summer's World Cup will give his players extra motivation to do well in the claret and blue shirt.
Some of Villa's key men can expect to be on the plane to Brazil with their respective nations next year, with the likes of Belgian striker Christian Benteke, Holland defender Ron Vlaar and American goalkeeper Brad Guzan all staples for their national teams.
Villa also have a crop of emerging talent who have outside chances of sneaking in the back door and making it to the finals after Roy Hodgson's men secured qualification this week, including in-form Englishmen such as Gabriel Agbonlahor and Fabian Delph.
Lambert knows it will be hard for outsiders to force their way into established squads in time for the tournament but admits the prospect of a World Cup does give players a spring in their step.
"It's good for the lads who have qualified, first and foremost," he said.
"It's good for any player to get to a World Cup. The lads that are in contention will hopefully stay fit and healthy and will go.
"For their countries it's great and a great honour to go to the World Cup, especially in Brazil which I think will be a great tournament.
"If the lads stay fit and healthy and give me a ticket for the games, I'm quite happy...and my flights - that's the least they can do!"
Benteke, Guzan and Vlaar are Villa's three most established players expecting to go to Brazil and while the onus is on them to justify their place, Lambert himself has no doubt about their qualities.
"They've got nothing to prove to me," he said.
"They're experienced lads. In their own minds they might think 'this is a big year' but it was always going to be a big year for any player fighting to get into a World Cup squad. It's a massive year.
"Even lads that haven't been that involved in the qualifying group, somebody will pop up from somewhere and sneak in. That's what happens in football."
Lambert is assessing Benteke ahead of Villa's Barclays Premier League clash at home to Tottenham on Sunday after the striker's recent hip injury.
Andre Villas-Boas has backed Christian Benteke to help Aston Villa challenge for a place in Europe this season.
Tottenham will come up against the striker who was strongly linked with a move to White Hart Lane this summer.
Benteke scored 23 goals in a blockbuster first season for the Midlands side, but he handed in a transfer request amid interest from Spurs and a number of top European clubs.
Luckily for Villa, Benteke decided to stay and he has since gone on to score five goals in six matches this term.
Villas-Boas took little notice of Benteke during a brief encounter when Porto played Genk three years ago, but the Tottenham manager now regards the striker as one of the best in the Barclays Premier League.
"He is showing all his potential at the moment," Villas-Boas said.
"We have seen how he acts as a direct striker for Villa and he is scoring goals. Villa with him in the team are a different proposition.
"They see an increase in confidence up front of a great striker, who has great career ahead. The goals he's scored have shown that."
Ever the master of detail and preparation, Villas-Boas says he has "information" that Benteke has recovered from his hip problem and will play in Sunday's game.
Villa coped well without their star striker against Manchester City, but they looked blunt at Hull, where they drew 0-0.
After a rollercoaster of a season last year, Villa have made a decent start this term, winning three of their opening seven matches.
Villas-Boas believes Sunday's opponents have the potential to finish inside the top five.
"Paul Lambert deserves credit for the amount of youngsters he is bringing through," the Portuguese added.
"I see them stepping up and charging for European places in the end."
Jan Vertonghen has spent the last two weeks training alongside Benteke with Belgium, but their friendship will be put on hold for 90 minutes on Sunday.
The defender was part of the Tottenham team that put four past Villa in the Capital One Cup last month. However, with Benteke back, he expects to be in for a busier afternoon this time around.
"He is so important for Villa," said Vertonghen, who somehow avoided a red card for pulling Nicklas Helenius' shorts down in the 4-0 win.
"He is an unbelievable player so it will be a different Villa to the one we played in the Capital One Cup."