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 Posted by PA Sport
Apr 4, 2014

Lambert targets top 10 finish for Villa

ESPN FC's Craig Burley addresses the impact that Christian Benteke's injury will have on Aston Villa, Belgium and Benteke’s future.

Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert insists back-to-back defeats have not diminished his desire to achieve a top-half finish in the Premier League.

Christian Benteke shows his frustration after missing a golden chance to equalise against United.
The injury to star striker Christian Benteke is a big loss for Aston Villa's Premier League run-in.

• Hughes: Benteke injury a blow
New contract for Agbonlahor?

Successive 4-1 losses to Stoke and Manchester United have left supporters casting nervous eyes over their shoulders towards the relegation battle, while Christian Benteke's six-month layoff with an Achilles tendon injury has hardly improved the mood ahead of Saturday's Villa Park clash with rock-bottom Fulham.

However, Lambert is adamant his side should look up instead of down, and sees the six-point gap to the 10th-placed Potters far from a lost cause as he looks to finish a trying season with a flourish.

Speaking before the extent of Benteke's injury became apparent, Lambert told Villa's official website: "To be ambitious you've always got to look at what's above you to try to catch the teams ahead.

"There's not much in that little group there with West Ham and Stoke. I also know it's a tough, tough league and you have to be right on it to get a result. Saturday's game will be no different.''

Villa are in far from perfect shape as they prepare to face Felix Magath's Cottagers, who are still stranded at the bottom of the table with bleak prospects of survival.

Besides the absent Benteke, Villa could also be without Gabby Agbonlahor, who is battling to recover from a sickness bug.

But there is better news over Nathan Baker, who has recovered from the foot injury which sidelined him in last week's 4-1 defeat at Old Trafford, while Karim El Ahmadi is also set to return to contention after a thigh strain.

Despite Lambert's insistence on positivity, Villa are not yet safe and the Scot's previous playing experience in Germany means he is fully aware of his opposite number Magath's managerial capabilities.

"His teams are always hard-working sides," he continued. "I think if anyone knows his sides, he wants people to put an honest day's work in.

"I know the way his teams work. I played against Stuttgart when he was manager there. He might not have Premier League experience but he's coached some really big clubs in a really big league so he'll know how to handle it.

"To be fair to Fulham, I watched them the other day and they are still a really good side.''

Learning of Benteke's injury, Lambert later said: "It's a terrible blow both for Christian and for the club. He will miss the rest of the season, obviously, and also the World Cup.

"But he'll work hard because that's what he does and he'll come back for us stronger than ever next season."

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