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Lambert still looking up
Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert insists back-to-back defeats have not diminished his desire to achieve a top-half finish in the Barclays Premier League.
Successive 4-1 losses to Stoke and Manchester United have left some at the club casting nervous eyes over their shoulders towards the relegation battle.
And the news that striker Christian Benteke has been ruled out for the rest of the season with an Achilles tendon injury has hardly improved the mood ahead of Saturday's Villa Park clash with rock-bottom Fulham.
But Lambert is adamant his side should look up instead of down and sees the six-point gap to the 10th-placed Potters far from unbridgeable.
Speaking before the extent of Benteke's injury became apparent, Lambert told Villa's official website: "To be ambitious you've always got to look at what's above you to try to catch the teams ahead.
"There's not much in that little group there with West Ham and Stoke.
"I also know it's a tough, tough league and you have to be right on it to get a result. Saturday's game will be no different."
Villa are in far from perfect shape as they prepare to face Felix Magath's Cottagers, who are still stranded at the bottom of the table with bleak prospects of survival.
Besides the absent Benteke, Villa could also be without Gabby Agbonlahor, who is battling to recover from a sickness bug.
But there is better news over Nathan Baker, who has recovered from the foot injury which sidelined him in last week's 4-1 defeat at Old Trafford, while Karim El Ahmadi is also set to return to contention after a thigh strain.
Despite Lambert's insistence on positivity, Villa are not yet safe and the Scot's previous playing experience in Germany means he is fully aware of his opposite number Magath's managerial capabilities.
Lambert added: "His teams are always hard-working sides. I thtink if anyone knows his sides, he wants people to put an honest day's work in.
"I know the way his teams work. I played against Stuttgart when he was manager there.
"He might not have Premier League experience but he's coached some really big clubs in a really big league so he'll know how to handle it.
"To be fair to Fulham, I watched them the other day and they are still a really good side."
Fulham's on-loan Darren Bent is prevented from playing against his parent club but Magath has revealed that working with the striker has fulfilled the wish of his son Leonard.
Leonard, 16, advised his father when he was managing clubs in the German Bundesliga including Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg and Schalke to sign Bent, his favourite player.
Magath insists that now he has inherited Bent following his appointment by the Cottagers, he may have a key role to play in the quest for Barclays Premier League survival.
"Darren is a very good player - he's my son's favourite player!" he said.
"He told me for six or seven years that I had to buy Darren Bent.
"I've known him for years and he's a very good striker. If he has the training sessions he could be a player that can help us."
Magath and Bent appeared to be at loggerheads following Sunday's 3-1 home defeat by Everton as mixed messages emerged over the forward's fitness.
Having selected Bent on the bench and started unknown 17-year-old Moussa Dembele, Magath stated he was carrying a knock that prevented him from coming on, a claim that was denied by the player.
A family bereavement forced Bent to miss the 1-1 draw with West Brom on February 22 and he has made only two appearances in the five matches since.
Adding to the disquiet at Craven Cottage are reports that Shahid Khan is ready to sack Magath with Fulham five points adrift of safety with just six games remaining.
Magath said: "There are no problems with Darren. We had a special situation and he had some days off for private reasons and that unsettled him.
"He didn't join us for the game against West Brom so there were a few things that were not really good.
"On Friday he stopped training and left the pitch to see the medical staff. He didn't train.
"On Saturday he was better and he told me 'I'm fine' so I decided to name him on the bench because he's a player we need.
"But the risk of letting him play was too high because he had been unable to train on Friday. It's normal you have discussion about such things.
"Now somebody was writing I'm out. You always have such subjects where nobody knows where it comes from. It doesn't matter.
"He came to me on Tuesday and we talked together. It's fine for me."
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