Aston Villa boss Remi Garde ignoring Christian Benteke narrative ahead of Liverpool clash

The former Villa striker returns to his old club this weekend for the first time since his summer move to Anfield.

Christian Benteke will likely receive a warm reception when he returns to Aston Villa on Sunday for the first time since his summer switch to Liverpool, but how much action he will see on the afternoon remains to be seen.

The Belgian striker has struggled to replicate his Villa form for the Reds so far, netting just six times in 20 Premier League appearances, and he is now in the midst of an 11-game goal drought.

He has not started the club’s past five top-flight matches as a result and missed several glaring chances in Wednesday night’s 2-1 FA Cup fourth round replay loss at West Ham United – leaving him likely forced to settle for a spot on the bench this weekend.

The 25-year-old currently looks a far cry from the player who almost single-handedly saved his old club from the drop in three successive seasons with 42 goals in 89 league games, and Liverpool fans have been quick to vent their frustration towards him.

Both teams certainly seem like they would have been better off if the physical front man’s £32.5 million release clause had never been activated last summer, but Villa boss Remi Garde does not see much point in dwelling on what might have been.

Asked at his pre-match press conference ahead of Liverpool’s visit whether he thought the club would still be in relegation trouble had Benteke not left, the Frenchman said: “It’s fiction. Football is not fiction. I have a lot of respect for Christian Benteke. I don’t know him personally but I know that he had been a tremendous asset in this position last season.

“But then it’s only fiction. I’ve only got my current players. We have no more help from the outside now and those within the dressing room have to save this big football club.

“I was not involved enough with English football to judge [whether Villa got a good deal], to be fair. All I know is that this is part of the business of modern football now.”

Garde’s side currently sit eight points from safety at the foot of the table with only 13 games left and have netted a division-low 20 goals after failing to purchase enough firepower with the funds from Benteke’s sale.

Last weekend’s 2-0 home win over relegation rivals Norwich gave their slim survival hopes a much needed boost going into Sunday's match, but the former Lyon manager has warned his players that they will have no chance of beating Jurgen Klopp’s men unless they raise their game.

"My analysis after the match was that we didn't play very well actually,” Garde added on the Norwich win. "From my point of view we conceded too many opportunities to our opponent and we have been a little bit lucky with many chances created.

"Of course, the victory and the three points were very important but the way we played didn't please me totally.

"I know that if we don't correct things that we should've done in that game then we won't win the next one this weekend against Liverpool.

"For me I was more focused on that than the three points.”

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