Lambert hoping Villa arrives at full fitness for opening Premier League contest

The Scotsman is hoping his team will be prepared for its opening Premier League fixture but was missing one of his offseason transfers in a 2-0 preseason win against FC Dallas.
FRISCO, Texas — After finding his team in a relegation battle and missing several players because of injury last season, Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has an understandable goal for his team's preaseason.

"I think the biggest achievement is to get everybody fit. That’s my main objective," he said after Villa's 2-0 win in a friendly against FC Dallas on Wednesday. "Results aren’t the be all, end all in preseason, never have been. It’s to get your players in your team ready for the Stoke game," which will be the club's first Premier League contest August 16.

"That’s the main objective," Lambert continued. "If we can get through the five games we got, I think we’d be happy with that."

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One player who is not yet at the level is midfielder Joe Cole. The transfer from West Ham has a thigh injury and was not on the matchday roster Wednesday. Lambert said he won't rush the player back for Saturday's friendly against the Houston Dynamo, saying his status will be "touch and go."

But Lambert will be boosted by having Charles N'Zogbia back in his stable. The striker missed all of last season with an Achilles injury.

The 28-year-old scored a sensational free kick in the second half to cap the Premier League club's night in a match that otherwise was unlikely to be confused for something other than a July friendly.

In the first half, the match lagged with Aston Villa showing it is playing just the second match of its preseason and Dallas' roster composed of both regular starters and reserves worked to feel out both its teammates and its opponents.

"The type of game where two teams tried to see what was going on, then the first half went on that rhythm. I didn’t see very much of a rhythm from either team in the first half," said Oscar Pareja, FC Dallas manager.

Lambert attributed the slow start to the climate, which was seasonable for Texas but unfamiliar for a team based in Birmingham, England.

"The first half was really tough because the heat was probably a lot greater in that," he said. "But to be fair the lads in the first half were resolute. They were strong defensively. Never really got hot. Andy [Weiman] scores a really good goal. Second half the game settled down a little bit and I think we dominated the game from there on."

In the second half, the match flowed a bit better, though never threatened to turn into a classic, and the visitors were able to show their superiority.

"The second half, it was better," Pareja said. "I thought they were sharper than us and came up with some plays and put us on alert and that woke us up."

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