Lambert will unleash Benteke
Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert has vowed not to wrap Christian Benteke in cotton wool as he prepares to let him loose.
The striker is expected to be in the squad for Saturday's visit of Manchester City to end his six-month injury nightmare.
Benteke has been out since April after rupturing his Achilles, which forced him to miss Belgium's World Cup campaign.
But Lambert insisted he will let his star player off the leash rather than nurse him through his return to the Barclays Premier League.
He said: "I'll let him go when he's out there. He's deserved it. When he's out there he's got to go and do it. His injury was the most important thing that he's recovered from.
"I heard it, I heard the snap from where I was standing, I knew it was a major one but it wasn't just that, it was losing (Libor) Kozak as well with a broken leg.
"With losing Benteke you've lost two strikers, your number nines are out.
"That was the problem. The start we've made has been really good but we've done it without a number nine."
Benteke's swift return has been a surprise as Charles N'Zogbia was ruled out for the whole of last season after he ruptured his own Achilles in 2013.
And Lambert admitted he did not know how long it would take his B#7million man to recover.
He said: "You are never quite so sure because Charlie did it and he was long so I think with every individual it can vary how quickly they can come back and how quickly the body heals itself.
"I knew it was going to be a long one but time wise I didn't really know.
"If he comes through training OK (on Friday) I'll put him in the squad and we'll decide from there."
Libor Kozak has suffered a setback as he returns for a broken leg and is expected to be missing for a number of weeks after an operation.
Meanwhile, Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini claims it is too early to be writing off his side's Champions League prospects.
City have made another faltering start in Europe and face a familiar battle to qualify for the knockout stages after collecting just one point from their opening two group games.
Pellegrini's men were beaten at Bayern Munich and held to a draw by Roma in midweek, meaning their upcoming back-to-back games against CSKA Moscow are likely to be critical.
After disappointments in previous seasons, City are expected to make progress in the competition this term with a quarter-final spot thought to be the minimum requirement.
Pellegrini said: "I think that we didn't play well but we played against a good team that is in a good moment.
"We are just starting the group. I don't think it is the moment to make an evaluation about what we are doing in the group.
"In the moment when we finish the group, we will see. We will analyse what happens in every game."
City are also still to hit their stride in the Barclays Premier League.
The champions sit third in the table after six games but trail leaders Chelsea by five points.
Pellegrini accepts that is not ideal but is confident of closing the gap.
The Chilean said: "We are just starting. It is not good to be five points behind Chelsea.
"But in this moment we have one point more than last year. Arsenal was maybe six points ahead of us and we didn't win the first three games away.
"Things can happen, important things and we will try to continue playing the way we did against Hull.
"If we win on Saturday, yes, I'm happy (with our start). The only game we lost was here against Stoke. It was not in our minds that we could lose that game but that can happen in football.
"I think that in all other games we play very well."
Pellegrini, speaking at press conference to preview this weekend's trip to Villa, again refused to comment specifically on criticism aimed at Yaya Toure.
City's powerhouse midfielder has been below par this term and again failed to make an impression against Roma.
Pellegrini said: "I think that when we play well, it is because the most important players of the team play well and when we play badly, it is because the whole team plays bad.
"I don't think we should single out one player because I don't think this team depends on one player."
Midfielder Fernando is back in contention for the trip.
The Brazilian, who made a positive immediate impact after his summer move from Porto, has missed the last six games with a groin injury.
His return leaves playmaker Samir Nasri, who recently underwent groin surgery, as Pellegrini's only major absentee.