Sunderland Provide the Perfect Chance for Christian Benteke to Get Back on Track

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterNovember 28, 2013

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 26: Christian Benteke of Aston Villa looks dejected following Everton's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Everton at Villa Park on October 26, 2013 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Aston Villa are unbeaten in their last three games, have recorded three clean sheets from their last six and appear to be finding their feet after a rough fixture list to start the season.

With the club safely stowed away in midtable after accruing 15 points from their opening 12 games, it's perhaps gone unnoticed in some quarters that Christian Benteke hasn't scored for five games.

Last season's goal machine started the season in fine form by notching four goals in his first four games, but since scoring against Newcastle United at home in September, has failed to find the back of the net.

If Villa were tanking, it would be a major concern. However, with the defence stepping up to shut opponents out and the midfield chipping in with a few much-needed goals, it has lessened the burden on the Belgian's shoulders.

He holds himself to high standards, though. Even if Paul Lambert couldn't have expected him to repeat his 2-12-13 end-of-season form this time around, drawing consecutive blanks is clearly bothering the striker.

Injuries have played a part, yes, and he's done extremely well to come back from what looked a horrific hip flexor injury in just under a month. He then picked up a knock in training with his national team and looked rusty once again in the draw with West Bromwich Albion.

Benteke powers home an incredible header in the same fixture last season.
Benteke powers home an incredible header in the same fixture last season.Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Villa are by no means reliant on their towering target man to the extent they were last season, but a performance from him at some point would be most welcome.

And what better stage to announce your return to form than the same one used to affirm your world-class quality not seven months ago?

Villa smashed this weekend's visitors, Sunderland, 6-1 last season on a night that essentially secured their status as a Premier League club for another 12 months. Paolo Di Canio's men trudged off battered and beaten, a man down and five goals worse in differential.

Benteke scored his first and only Premier League hat-trick that night, with one opportunistic finish, one cute near-post shot and one towering header from a corner sealing him the Man of the Match award.

The confidence levels in the striker, from then to now, are incomparable, but the Black Cats will still be running very wary of what the Belgian did to them that night.

John O'Shea and Phil Bardsley, likely to start on Saturday, were present for the mauling, while Carlos Cuellar—an ex-Villa man—is still around as well.

If there was ever a game for Benteke to get himself back among the goals and back to his best, it's this one, and Villa Park will be filled with thousands of expectant fans.