Lambert: FA Cup not Villa priority

Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert has given a brutal assessment of the fading status of the FA Cup in the modern football calendar.

Paul Lambert

Lambert will take his side into Saturday's FA Cup third round clash against League One Sheffield United insisting most fellow top-flight bosses would rather do without the competition completely.

Lambert told BBC Radio WM: "If they were being honest, they probably would do."

"Not just because of the money but survival in the league is vital."

Christian Benteke is set to start for Villa as he seeks his first goal since September, but Ron Vlaar is a doubt after suffering a recurrence of his recent calf injury in Wednesday's 1-0 win at Sunderland.

Roberto Martinez will hope his Everton side avoid any slip-ups at home to Championship contenders QPR, while Hull face a tough trip to improving Middlesbrough with the busy schedule beginning to take its toll on the Tigers.

Newcastle will be without defender Fabricio Coloccini due to injury as they provide Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's first opposition since being confirmed as the new Cardiff manager on Thursday.

Magpies boss Alan Pardew insists he is working on bringing in January reinforcements rather than looking to off-load star midfielder Yohan Cabaye.

Pardew said: ''For us it is a situation where he is a Newcastle player. He's very happy with us and he is very important to us.''

Norwich boss Chris Hughton will give Ricky van Wolfswinkel a start at home to Fulham but is without Michael Turner and the suspended Leroy Fer. Fulham have recalled defender Dan Burn from Birmingham and could be set to give him his first start.

Mauricio Pochettino's Southampton face a tough test of their ability to recover from a testing Premier League programme as they meet Championship high-flyers Burnley, while Stoke will need to be on their guard to avoid an upset against Leicester at the Britannia Stadium.

West Brom striker Chris Brunt believes his managerless side have "turned a corner" with Wednesday's 1-0 win over Newcastle as they prepare for another all-Premier League clash with Crystal Palace.

In Sunday action, under-pressure West Ham boss Sam Allardyce will stretch his ailing squad to its limit as he looks to gain some relief from his side's dismal Premier League run with a win at Nottingham Forest.

Allardyce watched his side slump deeper into relegation trouble after a New Year's Day defeat to Fulham and, with almost a full team out injured, the third round clash at the City Ground is unlikely to be high on his list of priorities.

Allardyce has already bemoaned the effects of the busy festive programme and said: ''It's a great Christmas period that everyone likes, but the cost is massive to each and every football club across the country.

''We're losing millions and millions of pounds of talent to injury. You expect at this time of year the odd suspension, but when you've got eight out, it ain't my fault."

Gus Poyet's Sunderland look to rebound from their disappointing home defeat to Aston Villa when they face Carlisle, while Swansea go to Manchester United without a win in six Premier League games but with boss Michael Laudrup saying: 'Seeing that the team is confident is very important to me. To see the players have that confidence in their own skills because that is what we need."



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