With Christian Benteke in a race against time to be fit for the West Midlands derby between Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion on Monday, manager Paul Lambert along with the Villa faithful are sweating at the prospect of not having their star striker available for what is sure to be a hotly contested encounter.
The 20-year-old Belgian forward suffered a knee injury as a result of a collision with Colombian midfielder Carlos Sanchez in a friendly last Thursday, and was forced to withdraw from training with the Belgian squad on Sunday due to persisting discomfort, The Daily Mail reports.
Villa and West Brom are locked on 14 points a piece in the middle of the table, and both teams will be looking to push forward into the top half with a win over their fierce rivals. The last three fixtures have all ended in draws, with Villa last claiming victory in December 2010.
Villa appear to be lacking firepower at the moment, and it remains to be seen whether Benteke will recover in time, with fellow strikers Gabby Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann also doubtful with ankle and hamstring problems respectively.
Benteke has had a stop-start season so far, having sustained a hip injury in the 1-0 win at Norwich earlier in the season which hindered his participation, chipping in with only four Premier League goals so far this campaign.
While Villa have heavily relied on his exploits since his arrival from Genk last summer, they now have the opportunity to call upon forgotten giant Nicklas Helenius, who has seen little game time this season.
At 6ft 5 inches tall, the Dane could offer an aerial presence unattainable by anyone shorter, despite the heading exploits of Czech striker Libor Kozak against Cardiff City this past week, who is no short man himself at 6ft 3 inches.
The two could prove a formidable strike partnership, offering a larger-than-life presence up front where both strikers have the ability to hold up play and utilise their strength to power through the opposing teams defensive line. We are yet to witness what Helenius is all about and he could have the chance to prove himself should Villa's first-choice forwards be unavailable.
Exploring all strike-force alternatives possible surely wouldn't hurt Villa, as they recently endured a goal drought that lasted over seven hours that only ended this past weekend against Cardiff. Could yet another enigma unravel and further cement Paul Lambert's knack for unearthing gems in the transfer market? He and the claret and blue side of B6 will be hoping so.
The absence of Villa's number 20 could also possibly clear the way for a player with more accuracy from dead ball situations to resume his penalty taking duties. Benteke has already missed two from the spot this season, suggesting that his absence from such duties may be a blessing in disguise.
Dutch right-back Leandro Bacuna immediately springs to mind, with the versatile defender having scored two spectacular free-kicks this season in the 3-2 victory against Manchester City in September, along with last week's opener against Cardiff City.
22-year-old Bacuna is no stranger to penalties either, boasting a 100-per cent success rate from the spot at his former club, Eredevisie side FC Groningen.
As teams such as Chelsea and Tottenham continue to be linked with a big-money move for Benteke, numerous figures are thrown about regarding the fee Villa would demand in losing one of their brightest stars.
His recent lack of fitness and playing time may be detrimental to his price, but could also force such teams to look elsewhere, leaving Villa with no suitors for their prized asset.
Among other factors, the value of a player typically relies largely on their current performance. But with Benteke only having signed a new deal in July, any interested teams won't obtain his services in a cut-price deal or anything less than what Villa demand.
If Villa can hold onto their star player while he maintains the form he radiated so effortlessly last season, as well as breed their alternatives into genuine competition for starting berths, they may just find themselves climbing up the table week by week.
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