If you took a straw poll of the writers who are paid to know about Aston Villa, most of them would say that Christian Benteke will be playing this weekend. I've seen educated guesses in that vain from James Nursey and Mat Kendrick to name but a few. Benteke being ready so quickly after a tough groin injury would be fantastic news for Aston Villa, as they head into a tough Sunday match against Tottenham. But coming so quickly after he hurt himself (and well ahead of the estimated 4-6 weeks we heard when the injury first occurred), it may not be prudent to use the Belgian as Paul Lambert usually does.
I sent out an email to our writers to see how they would use Benteke if they were in the manager's spot. Here are their responses.
Gareth: I think he'd have to be used as the main point of attack, as usual. If Spurs have a weakness, it's at the back, and I think their central defenders would struggle to deal with Benteke. It might be worth assessing whether he can handle the full 90 minutes, and if he can't, possibly using him as an impact sub like he was in his debut against Swansea.
Aaron: Given the nature of his injury, I don't want him starting unless the trainers are 100% convinced he's fit enough to play at least 60 minutes. The odds of needing a goal after the hour mark seem significantly higher than the odds of being ahead, and even if Villa do find themselves leading late on in the game Benteke is so important to Villa's overall strategy that being able to bring him on and use his ability to win aerial duels and help keep something resembling possession would be massively important. Obviously if he's legitimately fully fit, there's nothing wrong with starting him and letting him play a full game. But the odds of that seem very low, and I'd rather have him in the game late than have to take him out when Villa really need him.
Robert: The temptation, if Benteke is healthy, will be to use him from the beginning of the match. But even with him on the pitch, I'm not sure this is a game that Aston Villa can win. No one was expecting Benteke back this early, so having him is a bonus at this point. Start the match without him, and if a point or three are there for the grabbing, sub him in during the second half. It's better to lose a match now than to put too much pressure on him for a quick return and chance re-aggravating the injury.
And now tell us what you think. If you're Paul Lambert, how do you use Aston Villa's brightest star this weekend?