Aston Villa boss Lambert encouraged by Benteke progress

The Scottish manager hailed the ability of the Belgium international ahead of the new season, while he also confirmed that Darren Bent has had a medical at Fulham
Paul Lambert is ready to unleash striker Christian Benteke as Aston Villa begin their Premier League campaign against Arsenal on Saturday.

The Belgium international's future at Villa Park had looked uncertain during pre-season after handing in a transfer request, but after signing a new contract with the club, he has shown he is ready for the new campaign.

15/2 Christian Benteke is 15/2 with William Hill to open the scoring against Arsenal
The 22-year-old played a key part in the club's survival last term and, after scoring seven goals in five pre-season outings, Lambert is looking forward to seeing him continue to progress.

"Looking at him since he's come back from his break, in the games that he's played, he's been excellent," the Scot said. "He's not lost his goalscoring exploits, to me he's getting better.

"He's growing a lot in confidence, he's a big big athlete and a really top footballer.

"I'm not going to put levels of expectancy on him, he'll have his own standards, heights he wants to achieve.

"At this minute in time, looking at him in training and pre-season, he's ready."

Benteke's arrival at Villa Park restricted the number of appearances made by Darren Bent last season, and Lambert confirmed that the England striker is undergoing a medical at Fulham ahead of a proposed move to Craven Cottage.

"He's just away down to Fulham," he added. "I think it's well-documented now that he's down there having a medical and that's the last I've heard."