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Lambert boosted by Benteke return from ban

The Belgium international striker has missed Villa's last three matches through suspension, after he was dismissed during the 2-1 home defeat by Tottenham in early November.

Villa drew all three of those matches to extend their winless run in the Premier League to nine games, a sequence that Lambert hopes Benteke will help bring to an end at Selhurst Park.

"In my own opinion, when he's on his game I think he's one of the best in Europe, let alone in Britain," the manager said.

"I've seen some brilliant strikers in my time and, when that guy's on his game, he's certainly up there. So that's a massive boost to us.

"I think his performance against Spurs indicated that he was getting back [to full match-fitness].

"He's still going to be match-fitness down because he didn't play for a number of months, but against Spurs I thought he was fantastic for us.

"He's a top player and if he keeps progressing the way he's going then we'll see where his career goes."

"I've got options all over the place. Gabby [Agbonlahor] can play wide, he can play in behind. There's loads of places I can play him.

"But I think Christian coming back gives us that option of putting him back into it."