Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert remains optimistic that strikers Christian Benteke and Libor Kozak will return to first-team action sooner than expected, claiming the pair could be back ‘in a few weeks'.
Belgian international Benteke has been sidelined since April, after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon during a training session which ruled him out of the World Cup this summer, having scored 10 in goals in 26 league games up to that point.
That blow to Lambert’s side came just three months after fellow frontman Kozak broke his leg in a training ground collision, with the club forced to battle through the closing weeks of the season without their two main options up front.
However, despite initial fears that both could be out for the first-half of the new campaign, Lambert thinks their return could come as soon as September, having seen them start light training during the club’s pre-season preparations.
‘I don't put a time limit on it because their two injuries were really bad,’ he told reporters.
‘But Christian has started jogging outside, so he is doing well. Libor is doing great.
‘So a few weeks I think. What will help us certainly will be the international break.’
In the absence of Benteke and Kozak, the man to lead the line for Villa could be the once-jettisoned Darren Bent, who spent last season on loan at Fulham after falling out of favour with Lambert.
A member of the now-dissolved "bomb squad", along with Alan Hutton and Charles N’Zogbia, the Scot has granted the trio a reprieve this summer and all could be a part of the starting XI when the club travel to the Britannia Stadium on Saturday to face Stoke City in their Premier League opener.