Belgium told not to expect Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke to be fit for World Cup qualifiers

The striker is expected to be out for six weeks

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has warned Belgium counterpart Marc Wilmots not to expect Christian Benteke to be fit for next month's World Cup qualifying double header.

On Thursday, Lambert delivered a positive prognosis as to Benteke's injury timetable compared to 48 hours previously when he suggested his star striker would be out for up to six weeks with a hip problem.

The suggestion is Benteke may return for the Barclays Premier League clash at home to Spurs on October 20, soon after Belgium's games in Croatia on the 11th and at home to Wales on the 15th.

Needing just a point to qualify, it would appear Benteke's presence is unlikely to be required, not that Lambert believes he will be heading off anyway.

"We're obligated to let him go when a national game comes up because national teams can invoke the ruling, but for the initial period he is here," said Lambert.

"I understand Belgium's point of view, that they are trying to do their best for their country, but he's our player and he has people looking after him here, so we'll wait and see.

"But I certainly don't think he'll be unfit for us and then play for them.

"With or without Christian I still think they'll get their point. I saw Belgium against Scotland the other month and they were excellent. They deserve to go through."

Benteke's rapid improvement over the past few days may give Wilmots hope, especially as Lambert has stated this week he feared the worst following the injury sustained during Saturday's 1-0 win at Norwich.

According to Lambert, Benteke is now "doing great", adding: "I think he will be back quicker. We'll have to wait and see.

"We've two games before the international break, which has probably come at the right time for him and for us.

"The worst scenario was he was going to be out for a considerable period of time.

"But the way he is progressing, everybody is pretty happy with him, and he's a lot happier within himself, which is pleasing."

Benteke is one of nine players on the sidelines, although Lambert is hopeful the likes of Gabriel Agbonlahor, Fabian Delph and Andreas Weimann should be fit for Saturday's visit of Manchester City.

PA

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