Paul Lambert has confirmed that Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke will make his long-awaited return from a ruptured Achilles tendon against Manchester City.
However, despite welcoming back a number nine who has netted 34 times in 67 games for the club, another Villan’s derailed comeback could have a greater effect on affairs.
The Birmingham side are 23/4 to record consecutive home-soil victories over the Premier League champions, while a repeat of last year’s 3-2 scoreline can be backed at a cool 250/1.
Being able to call upon Benteke once more is a sizeable boost, but the absence of Mr ‘Concrete’ Ron Vlaar is of greater importance if they are to down the 8/15 favourites, or hold them to a 13/4-rated draw for that matter.
This morning the Birmingham Mail broke the news that, rather than face a late fitness test ahead of the Citizens clash, the former Feyenoord stopper will not be back until after the international break.
Success was no friend of the Dutchman’s claret-clad colleagues in the seven matches they contested without his assistance last season – Villa lost all bar one, a home draw with Swansea.
Having returned from a revelatory World Cup with his chest puffed out, Vlaar had been helming the rearguard with renewed authority before the calf injury his manager attributed to his exertions in Brazil struck.
A solitary Nikica Jelavic strike snuck past Brad Guzan in the three games before the centre-half succumbed.
Since then they’ve shipped six times in three encounters against guns of a higher calibre, while Nathan Baker and Philippe Senderos hold the fort.
Arsenal and Chelsea both managed to tame the Villans by a three-goal margin after the 1-0 win at Anfield which kicked off the Vlaarless period and City can be backed to defy a -2 handicap at 13/4.