Aston Villa V Sunderland at Villa Park - Match Preview

Lambert unfazed by Benteke drought

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert does not have any concerns about Christian Benteke's recent dry spell despite the striker's six-game run without a goal.

The powerful Belgian is Villa's top scorer with five goals this season but is currently enduring a barren spell following a recent hip injury.

Benteke scored 23 last season in a highly impressive debut campaign in the Barclays Premier League and Lambert believes it is unreasonable to expect his forward to hit those heights every week.

"I don't have any concerns whatsoever," said the Scot ahead of Saturday's visit of Sunderland.

"Even if he's not scoring he's still a handful, Christian.

"He'll come through it. I said to him the other day 'you won't play every single game where you score every single goal'. He'll be fine. I know exactly what he's offering to the team so I don't worry about him.

"If you can show me one striker who scores in every game, every minute, then I'll look at it. There's no such thing. I don't have a problem."

Lambert added: "I'm not getting involved in comparing him to other strikers.

"I know the value he has to me and I'll let other people surmise how Christian Benteke rates."

The last time Villa and Sunderland clashed, Lambert's side hammered the Black Cats 6-1 in a crucial victory in the fight against relegation last season.

While that victory helped spur Villa onto safety and allowed them to develop into a better side this season, Sunderland have seemingly gone backwards.

Paolo Di Canio has been sacked since that humiliating night at Villa Park but his successor Gus Poyet is also finding life tough, with the Wearsiders bottom of the table despite a couple of creditable victories.

"I was down there myself last year so I know exactly what it's like," said Lambert.

"You have to battle through it. It's not a nice place to be but there's still a long, long way to go.

"It's hard to judge because Gus has only been there for a few weeks and you're never quite sure. You don't know the lads he's got there.

"They've had a hard start. The last time we played them we won pretty convincingly at that time and everything we hit went in. We're certainly playing well enough to go and win but we'll have to wait and see how Sunderland are."

Lambert must decide whether to restore forwards Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andi Weimann to the starting line-up.

The pair came on as second-half substitutes in Monday's 2-2 draw with local rivals West Brom after recent injuries, along with midfielder Fabian Delph.

All three are available for the Black Cats' visit, as is left-back Antonio Luna after a recent hamstring complaint.

Sunderland boss Gus Poyet has called on his side to break their away-day curse.

Poyet's three away games in charge since taking over from Di Canio have yielded three defeats, three own goals and three red cards - although last week's for Wes Brown at Stoke was subsequently rescinded.

The Black Cats' luckless displays have been in stark contrast to their home form, which has seen successive wins over Manchester City and Newcastle and implied an ability to steer clear of trouble.

Poyet said: "I know that our last three away games were incredible. I try not to think too much about bad luck but when you get so many own goals and sendings-off it makes it difficult.

"So far I'm not worried but sometimes when you're down at the bottom and think you're doing well, you get a hammer in the head that brings you back down.

"We need to make sure we turn our away form into wins and prove we can get back with the other teams in the mix. All I am asking for is a normal game with no incidents."

Vito Mannone is expected to retain his place in goal as Keiren Westwood struggles to shake off a knock. Cuellar is ruled out with a hip injury but otherwise Poyet can choose from a fully fit squad.

Source: PA

Source: PA