Dunne facing extended spell out
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert is resigned to being without experienced defender Richard Dunne until the new year as his groin and hip problems show little signs of improvement.
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The Republic of Ireland international has not kicked a ball in anger since Euro 2012. It has left Villa shorn of experience in the back four, with the sale of James Collins to West Ham and the loaning out of Stephen Warnock and Alan Hutton to Bolton and West Ham respectively.
Now skipper Ron Vlaar is sidelined with a calf problem ahead of tomorrow's match at QPR which makes him a major doubt.
Lambert said: "Richard went for a test on Saturday and then another one yesterday. We are just trying to find out what we think it could be.
"It is really frustrating. We are unsure at the moment what is this ongoing problem. It has come from the groin area/hip area as such. "That is what we have to try and nail down and put to bed one way or another to try and get to the bottom of that.
"He is still a long way off (from being available) and it is frustrating for Richard."
Lambert added: "He is not training at all. He does little bits himself with the physios but I think even that is starting to hurt a bit.
"I would say he is out to the new year, the way it is going at the moment.
"It is frustrating with the other defensive (injury) problems because the squad isn't the biggest in that area."
Lambert does not have such concerns at the other end of the pitch with Christian Benteke continuing to enhance his reputation since his £7million summer move from Genk.
The Belgium international, 21, scored his sixth goal of the season to earn Villa victory over Reading in midweek and climb out of the bottom three.
Lambert said: "I never put an expectancy level on him because, with somebody of that age, you don't need to put that pressure on them.
"You don't need to come in and say 'he's going to do X, Y and Z. You just need to let him get on there with things.
"But I think with his performances, he's getting to that point where you think 'I know what you're capable of and what you could do.'
"My own expectancy level is probably getting higher every time he takes to the pitch."
Benteke is already starting to look a bargain capture even though it is the most money Lambert has splashed out on a player in his managerial career.
He said: "If you look at the market, then you're never quite sure of what somebody's worth because of the way the values are.
"But we needed somebody like him to come into the football club and he's performing at a really high level the way he's playing.
"He'll create all the headlines because of what he's doing and the role he's playing."