Lambert: Benteke yet to reach his peak
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert believes Christian Benteke has picked up where he left off last season despite admitting the striker has still not yet reached his best.
The Aston Villa striker has scored three times in his club's first three Premier League games to carry on the rampage that made him one of the sensations of the 2012-13 campaign.
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Benteke is hoping not to be one of the players left out of Wednesday's Capital One Cup tie at home to Rotherham but his manager insists he is nowhere near firing on all cylinders.
"I think he can do a lot better than he's performing at the moment," Lambert said. "Although he's scoring, there's a lot more to come from him performance-wise.
"He has played a lot of games, for the international team as well, and he has got Scotland away coming up with Belgium, so he's not getting any respite. I don't know if he needs a break. I just think his performances will get better. He is young and he will improve. He will keep maturing."
Benteke emerged from a quiet start last season by coming alive in a competition in which Villa and Rotherham had contested the first final in 1961.
Having gone closer than anyone to scoring an equaliser against Liverpool on Saturday, he has to wait to see whether he keeps his place amid the likely changes for the cup fixture.
But Lambert does not believe there will be any second season syndrome with the Belgian, who performed a spectacular pre-season u-turn after initially asking for a move away from Villa Park.
"Opponents will know now what he is like but it's all right saying that... you still have to stop him," he added. "He has started the season pretty well. I knew we had to get someone like Christian when we were looking for a striker last summer. Even if it's a well-known name, though, you don't know how they are going to adapt.
"But he hit the ground running. He had a little spell where he had chances and didn't take them, then he couldn't stop scoring and his reputation grew and he took it through last season and this."
Villa started their cup campaign 12 months ago with a comfortable home win over Tranmere and won at Manchester City, Swindon and Norwich before their shock semi-final exit against Bradford City.
The knockout still haunts Lambert, who said: "The two games against them were low points but I don't think they affected our League season one bit. A cup run is a distraction from the League and gives you a respite but didn't make any difference to our season.
"Credit to the players, they turned it round and in the last three or four months, they were excellent. But last year (in the cup) is gone, disappointing though it was. Training is high-tempo and sometimes you have to hold the players back a bit, although you also need that intensity to carry into a match day. They are champing at the bit to play."
One aspect of their play Villa are desperate to improve on is their ability to shut opponents out. Not since the home draw against Stoke last December, all of 30 games ago, have they kept a clean sheet.