Clearly, Christian Benteke has more over his main rival for the lone forward role at Aston Villa than three extra letters at the end of his surname. While Darren Bent was expected to lead the line for the midlanders this season, it’s been the 21-year-old summer signing who has been backed by manager Paul Lambert in recent weeks; relegating Bent, who is now injured, to just one start and three substitute appearances since Gameweek 5.
So why is this young Belgian international player so highly regarded by Lambert? His track record at Belgian side Genk, where he left to join Villa on a four-year deal, gives a good indication of his goal scoring ability. During the 2011-12 season, Benteke scored 19 times in 37 appearances. Two years earlier, while on loan at another Belgian club, KV Kortrijk, the then-teenager scored a similarly impressive 15 goals in 34 appearances.
His first appearance for Aston Villa, as a substitute during the west midlands side’s Gameweek 4 away clash with Swansea, also showed his potential, as Benteke lifted the ball over Michael Vorm and scored on the volley; a sublime piece of skill to herald one of the Premier League’s newest talents.
Only one more goal has followed in the Premier League, scored during Villa’s Gameweek 9 home game with Norwich, though he also notched up two Premier League assists – this means that, when on the pitch, Benteke has been involved in 50% of his side’s goals so far. In addition, the Belgian has also recorded two bonus points to take him to 31 points in Fantasy Premier League (FPL), where he is Villa’s second top points scorer, just two behind Matt Lowton.
Benteke has also impressed outside of the Premier League this term. Supplying an assist in Villa’s Capital One Cup third round win at City, he then struck twice in the last 16, as Lambert’s side saw off Swindon Town 3-2 last month. He has also scored four times in six appearances for his country over the last four months.
While many may question whether Benteke can cling on to a starting spot when Bent returns from injury (which is expected to be at the end of this month), Lambert’s ringing endorsement of the player’s recent display against United sums up just how highly he rates the Belgian. Having watched Benteke bully Chris Smalling before teeing up Andreas Weimann for the opener, the Villa boss went on to say:
“I think he’s not just a strong player, his technique is terrific and, for someone who is just 21, he can be anything he wants. Christian keeps going. He’s a brilliant guy as well. His character is terrific but my God, he’s a proper No.9. He did give the United centre-halves a run for their money”
Priced at 6.5 in FPL and 7.5 in the Sky Sports game (where he has also scored 31 points), Benteke has a mere 0.4% and 0.2% ownership respectively. With a favourable fixture list over the next four weeks (ARS, REA, qpr, STO), he has the potential to offer real value as a short-term punt and affords Fantasy managers an intriguing differential option amongst our forward three slots before Villa’s fixtures (liv, che, TOT) stiffen from Gameweek 17 onwards.