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Benteke backed to find form

Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert believes a new year will see Christian Benteke rediscover his touch in front of goal.

The Belgium international, who is an integral part of the Villa set-up, has gone 10 games without troubling the scorers.

That drought dates back to September, with stubborn Premier League defences and niggling injury problems having left him frustrated.

It was, however, after the turn of the year in 2012/13 that Benteke really sparked into life - netting 14 goals in 19 appearances, including a hat-trick against Sunderland - and he is being backed to go on a similar run this term.

Lambert, who will take Villa to the Stadium of Light on New Year's Day, said: "His return is a boost, as is his presence.

"Christian's a young guy. Everyone put him on a pedestal and thought he was fantastic - but you don't want people to do that as he has years to go.

"He will have spells where he doesn't perform and his confidence will suffer along with every other young player. They lose confidence quicker than experienced lads.

"If he comes back and does what he did at the turn of the year last year, he will kick on again and have another massive impact.

"It's against Sunderland again, which is where he kicked in last year. His presence is a big factor."

Benteke is back in action after shaking off a knee complaint, but Lambert has rejected any suggestion that the powerful frontman has been rushed back at times this season - having returned quicker than anticipated from a hip injury in October.

The Scot added: "No, he did not come back sooner than he should because he felt good.

"You can only put him out there and see if he's good. It wasn't until a few weeks ago he felt a bit of pain.

"Hopefully that's cleared up now. I think he will be okay."