Manchester United legend and now-Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville believes Aston Villa will avoid a relegation scrap this season as long as Christian Benteke gets back to his best.
Benteke returned to action earlier this month after being sidelined since April with a ruptured Achilles tendon, but has looked off the pace in his two starts one substitute appearance so far, failing to trouble Queens Park Rangers in Monday night’s 2-0 loss at Loftus Road.
After taking 10 points from their opening four league games, Villa have since failed to score in five-successive defeats, and Paul Lambert’s side remain desperate for their star man to return to his previous goalscoring form as soon as possible.
With Lambert stressing, though, that it might take up to seven games before Benteke is firing on all cylinders again, fans are gearing up for a tough stretch of fixtures, but Neville remains confident that the Claret and Blues will turn around their recent poor run of results with the Belgian in the line-up.
‘You can see [Benteke] is searching,’ he told Sky Sports.
‘He’s been out for six months, which is a long time. He is nowhere near the level, in terms of his fitness, yet.
‘He’s a huge handful, though. When he was at his best he was doing what Bobby Zamora was doing and bullying centre-backs, causing problems every time the ball went forward.
‘I still don’t think he’s got his mobility back in his game. His movement off the ball is not as frequent as when he’s at full fitness, which is understandable after being out for six months.
‘I think Villa will be ok. At the moment it’s just getting Benteke back to his best and maybe some support from midfield running past those strikers.’