O'Shea ready to keep Benteke quiet

Sunderland defender John O'Shea will use a little inside knowledge once again as he attempts to keep Christian Benteke at bay.

Christian Benteke

The Aston Villa striker has enjoyed a fine first season in English football despite his side's Barclays Premier League difficulties to date, and looks to be the man most likely to fire them out of relegation trouble by adding to his 19-goal tally in the remaining four games of the campaign.

However, O'Shea revealed he and his defensive colleagues had a helping hand from Benteke's fellow Belgium international Simon Mignolet when the sides last met in November.

He said: "Simon, a fellow countryman of his, was able to prepare us for the last game. Simon had said to us what a powerful boy he was, and obviously warned us about his eye for goal.

"He's a big powerful boy, but he's got a lot of raw skills and natural ability too, and Simon made us well aware of it before the last game.

"I am sure he didn't score in the last one, so we managed to keep him quiet enough the last time, but unfortunately, we lost the game."

It was Benteke's knock-down from a Matt Lowton cross which allowed Gabriel Agbonlahor to secure a 1-0 victory at the Stadium of Light on November 3, and the Black Cats will run out at Villa Park tonight intent on extending their fine recent run by exacting revenge.

New boss Paolo Di Canio has guided his side to a 3-0 win over derby rivals Newcastle and a 1-0 victory over Everton after a narrow defeat at Chelsea in his first game, and that has instilled a belief in his players that they can ease themselves out of relegation trouble.

Villa too have given themselves a fighting chance in recent weeks with wins over Reading, QPR and Stoke, although a 1-1 home draw with Fulham and last Monday's 3-0 defeat at Manchester United have dented their progress.

The stakes could hardly be higher this evening with Villa just two points clear of 18th-placed Wigan, who have a game in hand, and the Black Cats three points better off, and victory for either side could prove pivotal.

However, O'Shea is under no illusions as to how difficult it could be for the visitors to emerge with the spoils, and knows Benteke will not be the only threat on the night.

He said: "If you take too much focus on Benteke, you forget about the other attacking threats they have.

"It's going to be very tough because we are going down to Villa with a full crowd behind them and Paul Lambert will have them very fired up.

"He's been a major factor for them this season. Without his goals, they definitely would have been in a lot more trouble.

"But they have got players alongside him. He takes a lot of the focus, but Gabby Agbonlahor and (Andreas) Weimann, also there's (Charles) N'Zogbia.

"These are dangerous players and the counter-attack they have is one of the most potent in the Premier League, never mind anywhere else, so it's one we have to keep an eye on."



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