Lambert primed for physical test
Paul Lambert admits Aston Villa may struggle to cope with Stoke's physical threat but challenged his players to capitalise on their own strengths to extend their mini-revival in Saturday's home clash.
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Parts of Villa's new-look squad appear almost miniature-like in size and stature compared to their Stoke counterparts - with the exception of striker Christian Benteke.
But Lambert is seeing encouraging signs after a difficult start to the season and nine points from the last seven games have lifted them out of the Barclays Premier League bottom three.
He said: "Christian will cause problems although we are not big enough for the size of Stoke. I don't think you have to make an apology for being physical.
"But Stoke are not just a physical side. We have to use our strengths to play football and play the way we can.
"There's not a right or wrong way to play football and Tony Pulis has done a fantastic job at Stoke.
"They are in a rich vein of form but that is what a couple of wins can do, can catapult you up the league.
"This is a really tough game, different, but we are playing well enough to win."
Lambert added: "There are signs of progression. In the last seven games, only the two Manchester clubs have beaten us. I think people tend to overlook that.
"We've been unfairly criticised at times because we are young. People just think 'young team' but we look at the ways things are going at the minute and we are doing really fine.
"You try and give them belief that they can compete and they are more than holding their own and, if you are young enough, you are good enough to get thrown in.
"They have to get thrown in at some stage of their career but I have every faith in those lads to do everything they can for the football club.
"They have earned the right to play. It is not as if they are there by default."
Lambert has high hopes for £7m singing Benteke, who is Villa's leading scorer with five goals and dislodged Darren Bent from the side.
He said: "Christian has been brilliant, a great guy, really humble which is a great thing for a footballer to have.
"As long as he doesn't think he has arrived and if he keeps his feet on the ground, he can be anything he wants."
Lambert insists there has been no interest shown in Bent amid speculation he will be allowed to leave Villa in January.
He said: "Darren was on the bench last week. We've not had a cross word at all.
"Has there been any interest in Bent? None.
"Are you adamant you want to sell? Listen. my job is to pick a group of lads I think will win the game and that's my main focus, not any other deviation of anything else."
Villa skipper and central defender Ron Vlaar is again rated doubtful with a calf problem but winger Charles N'Zogbia has returned to training after a six-week absence with a knee injury.