Lambert upbeat despite poor form

Paul Lambert heads into Boxing Day buoyed by Aston Villa's performance at Stoke even though it ended in a third straight defeat.

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert

Villa have back-to-back games at Villa Park this week, with Crystal Palace the visitors on Thursday followed by Swansea two days later.

No team in the Barclays Premier League has picked up fewer points at home than Villa's seven, but Lambert believes there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic.

He felt the 2-1 defeat at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday was undeserved and is looking for a repeat performance, if not result, against Palace.

The Villa boss said: "If you look at the middle of the table, there's nothing in it. One win takes you up a few places.

"They're two hard games but we'll go and give it our all and try to win. If we play like that, then I'll be more than happy, just get the break and try to get a win."

Lambert has a decision to make up front after pairing Andreas Weimann with Libor Kozak against Stoke in the absence of the injured Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor, who was serving a one-match suspension.

Benteke is unlikely to return against Palace as Lambert wants to give him more time to recover fully from a knee problem that has contributed to his struggles in front of goal this season.

Kozak, a summer signing from Lazio, made his seventh Premier League start against Stoke and netted his fourth goal, while he might have grabbed a draw for Villa but for an impressive save by Asmir Begovic.

Lambert said of the Czech: "I thought he was excellent, he led the line great, and him and Weimann linked really well together. He was a handful. The crowd have taken to him and, to be fair to him, his goal ratio is pretty decent."

Palace, who sit in 18th place, won three of their first four games after Tony Pulis was appointed manager but have lost their last two, most recently a 3-0 home defeat by Newcastle.

Lambert is a fan of former Stoke boss Pulis, who left the Britannia Stadium in the summer after seven years.

The Villa boss said: "Tony's given them a lift. He's an infectious kind of guy, I've been in his company a lot and he's good company.

"You look at the job he did at Stoke. I don't think he got given the credit for it. The club is the way it is because of him. He has his way of playing and you have to respect it - there's no right way and wrong way to play a game of football.

"Sometimes a manager goes in and gets a lift, sometimes it tails off, but it will be a tough game for us."

Another familiar face will be midfielder Barry Bannan, who spent nine years at Villa before leaving for Palace this summer.

"He played a lot of games for me, we just felt that we had to keep changing and he found something at Crystal Palace," said Lambert.

"He's only a young lad, he's got his whole career in front of him."

Goalkeeper Brad Guzan is eager for a quick response from Villa following their Britannia Stadium disappointment.

He said: "The good thing about the Christmas period is it's a quick turnaround.

"It's a massive game on Boxing Day, we have to make sure we come out and get three points. Nobody's happy when you're not winning games. We have to find a way to bounce back."

Villa have tightened up at the back this season but Guzan was disappointed with the goals they conceded against Stoke, particularly Peter Crouch's winner.

Geoff Cameron's low cross evaded both Guzan and Chris Herd, allowing Crouch a tap-in.

"We need to be able to deal with crosses into the box, myself included," said Guzan.

"We'll go back and look at it and make sure it doesn't happen again. I've got all the confidence in the world in the guys in front of me."

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