Lambert: We're better equipped now

Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert is preparing for Sunday's Barclays Premier League home clash with Manchester United feeling optimistic.

Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert

Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert is preparing for Sunday's Barclays Premier League home clash with Manchester United feeling optimistic about the midlands outfit's chances of achieving something they have not managed for over 18 years.

The last time Villa won at their own ground in the league against United was on the opening day of the 1995/96 season.

Last term's Villa Park meeting saw the hosts come close to repeating the feat, with them going 2-0 up before substitute Javier Hernandez inspired the Red Devils to a 3-2 victory.

That was the first encounter between the clubs since Lambert's appointment as Villa manager, and in the current campaign his team have already taken some major scalps, winning 3-1 at Arsenal and 3-2 against Manchester City at home.

United, meanwhile, are looking vulnerable, having lost their last two league fixtures, and they are just three points better off than Villa ahead of this contest.

Lambert feels his side are "better equipped" than they were for last season's game, and, asked if the feeling in the camp was that there is no reason why Villa cannot defeat United on Sunday, the Scot said: "That is the belief they (the players) have got.

"They are at home, there will be a great atmosphere there and we have faith in the lads to go and get on the front foot.

"We know if we can do that, we will certainly be in the game, that is for sure."

And regarding the last home league win over the Red Devils, Lambert said: "It was 1995 and that is a long time ago.

"I've had only one game with them (United) here which was last year and it was a cracking game.

"We were 2-0 up and then they bring Hernandez on and he scores twice.

"That is the magnitude of the squad they have got, but we gave it everything we had that night and there wasn't much in it.

"If we can try to replicate that performance and get a better result, it will be great."

Lambert must decide whether or not to keep Christian Benteke in the first XI for Sunday's contest after the Belgium striker's scoring drought extended in last weekend's 2-0 defeat at Fulham.

Benteke failed to find the net for a ninth successive appearance and, in the words of Lambert, "never got going".

He was returning to the starting line-up at Craven Cottage, having been dropped to the bench for the previous match, a 3-2 win at Southampton.

His replacement Libor Kozak scored against the Saints before Benteke came on for him as a substitute.

And Kozak could be fit for the United match after missing the Fulham clash due to a toe injury.

Asked how Benteke - who netted five goals in his first five Villa games this season and scored 23 for them last term - had been in training this week, Lambert said: "He has been fine.

"When he came on against Southampton, I thought he was starting to look back to his self. In the Fulham game he never got going.

"But this is a massive game and a great game for us to play after last week.

"The players won't need lifting - they will be ready for it. The champions are coming to your ground and they will be ready."

He added: "In football, you need everybody to perform, not just Christian or another guy you are relying on.

"You need a team to do it and if you have that and you stick together, you've got a chance.

"With Christian not scoring, and the run he has been on, other lads have stepped up to the plate."

Villa will be without midfielder Fabian Delph, who is suspended having picked up his fifth yellow card of the season in the Fulham game.

Lambert has reported that centre-back Ron Vlaar is "struggling" with his calf problem, but indicated that both full-back Antonio Luna (groin) and Kozak may be available on Sunday.

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