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Fulham vs. Aston Villa, open match thread: Benteke is back

Christian Benteke returns! Join us for plenty of discussion of Aston Villa's trip to Craven Cottage to face Fulham.

Bryn Lennon

With Manchester United losing to Newcastle yesterday, Aston Villa can now equal the defending champions on points (and potentially on goal difference as well, though they'd have to really lay the wood to the home side) with a win today over Fulham. The Cottages are in new hands, with Martin Jol out and his former assistant Rene Meulensteen in. They looked much better on Wednesday against Spurs than they had in recent weeks, but they still enter the day with a seven-game losing streak. This would be a very good time for Villa to do what's expected of them and take all three points.

Of course, consistency isn't a given with this side, because of course it's not. Maybe one day we'll be at the point where Villa come into a game the clearly superior team and feel reasonably confident they'll manage to get the job done, but we're not there yet. But with three more winnable games on tap before the end of the calendar year, taking full points back to Birmingham could set up a pretty nice finish to 2013.

Thoughts on the lineup? The backline, featuring the return of Chris Herd, seems awfully weak. And we don't have news on Libor Kozak, although it's presumed he's injured since he's not even on the bench. Let's hope it's the day for Christian Benteke to get back into goalscoring form. Oh, and Gabby Agbonlahor wears the captain's armband.

Fulham: Stekelenburg, Riise, Senderos, Sidwell, Berbatov, Kacaniklic, Karagounis, Hughes, Dejagah, Riether, Parker

Subs: Kasami, Ruiz, Stockdale, Richardson, Duff, Zverotic, Vigen, Christensen

Aston Villa:Guzan, Herd, Baker, Clark, Bacuna, El Ahmadi, Delph, Westwood, Agbonlahor, Weimann, Benteke

Subs:Steer, Lowton, Helenius, Albrighton, Bowery, Sylla, Tonev