Andre Villas-Boas hails Paul Lambert's 'courage' over Darren Bent


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The Independent Football

Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas has hailed the courage of Paul Lambert for the way he dropped Darren Bent and placed his faith in Christian Benteke.

Tottenham's defence will face a test on Boxing Day when they face one of the most exciting strikers in the Barclays Premier League in Aston Villa's Benteke.

Villa manager Lambert caught many in the game by surprise earlier this season when he decided to drop club record signing Bent and replace him with the little-known Belgian.

The decision looked unwise at first, with Benteke struggling in his first few matches, but he has come into a rich vein of form in recent weeks.

Benteke missed a sitter during Villa's 2-0 defeat at Tottenham in October, but the Spurs boss is aware of the striker's recent improvement and believes Lambert deserves praise for his management of the situation.

The Tottenham boss said: "He has been outstanding, for sure.

"He has eight goals so far. I think he is surprising everybody. To his credit he has come up strong. He has strong competition from Bent.

"I think Paul Lambert was courageous in his decision to keep on persisting with a player that he got so well in the transfer market so credit to them. But it is good to see him up there."

Lambert moved to Villa following a successful spell at Norwich, but he initially struggled at the midlands club as he started building a new team with the emphasis on youth, rather than experience.

They put in a poor performance at White Hart Lane two months ago, with the likes of Benteke, Brett Holman and Fabian Delph all looking out of their depth.

But Villas-Boas - speaking before Villa's 8-0 mauling at the hands of Chelsea on Sunday - points to the recent 3-1 win at Liverpool as evidence that the midlands club are improving.

"Their result in Anfield was tremendous," Villas-Boas said.

"So it will be a difficult game.

"Credit to Paul Lambert for overturning a situation that was difficult for him in the beginning.

"He has a young team, full of energy, so it will be a different type of opposition to the Stoke game, but an excellent game for sure."

Tottenham's draw against Stoke at the weekend meant they lost the initiative in the battle for Champions League qualification.

After missing a chance to temporarily move in to third, the Londoners now find themselves in sixth position as they approach the halfway point of the season.

Villas-Boas remains convinced his team can put themselves back in the hunt for Champions League qualification in the next couple of weeks, however, as he embarks on a packed festive schedule that also includes games against Sunderland, Reading and QPR.

"There is still a long way to go," the 35-year-old said.

"The festive period is very important. Whenever there is a midweek fixture in the Premier League teams can drop points."