Bent's Villa exile set to continue
Darren Bent is expected to be on the Aston Villa substitutes' bench for the third game in succession this weekend, with Paul Lambert again been forced to deny accusations of a feud with the England striker.
Lambert preferred to play new signing Christian Benteke from the start against West Brom and Tottenham, and he looks likely to be given the nod again for Saturday's trip to Fulham as the Villa boss looks to help his forward acclimatise to the English game.
That means Bent is facing another appearance from the bench at Craven Cottage, with Lambert showing reluctance to operate the pair in tandem.
The Scottish manager maintains he fully understands Bent's frustration at not having a regular starting role in the side, but insists he has been laughing and joking with him during the week and there is no hint of a break down in the relationship between the pair.
"I understand players get frustrated when they are left out, I understand that," Lambert said. "I'd be more worried if they weren't frustrated at being left out, but I have a laugh and joke with him in the week like I do with every other player.
"There's never been a problem. I don't have a problem. He's not come knocking on my door. I was having a joke with him the other day. I have never had a problem with Darren not once."
Lambert's hard line reputation has been demonstrated on numerous occasions this season, with his decisions to leave out Bent and to drop goalkeeper Shay Given in favour of American understudy Brad Guzan.
But he insists he has acted with the utmost professionalism and that none of his decisions have been motivated by personal issues, adding: "I don't rule with fear if that is what people think. I treat people the right way and respect them. I don't do anything untoward.
"I get on well with him. I've always said to him, just come and see me, you know where I am. The lads have been great and I don't have any issue with them contrary to what people might think."