Dean Ashton - Norwich City will have to stop Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City can afford no more acts of Christian charity when they continue their pursuit of Premier League safety on Saturday.
The Canaries face former boss Paul Lambert's Aston Villa at Carrow Road (3pm), seeking the victory that would almost certainly guarantee another season in the top flight.
But they will have to tame the striker described by one of his team-mates as an 'absolute monster' – a player who has already scored in both Villa's meetings with City this season.
Christian Benteke has scored 18 times in 32 Premier League games since his £7m move from Genk on transfer deadline day in August, including a stunning 17-minute hat-trick in the 6-1 thrashing of Sunderland on Monday.
The 22-year-old has been outscored only by Robin van Persie, Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale, and his 22 goals in all competitions have made him one of the most dangerous opponents in English football.
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Former City striker Dean Ashton, who was introduced to top-flight football at the same age as Benteke, said the Belgian's achievements were all the more remarkable because of Villa's relegation battle.
'He has been nothing short of outstanding,' said Ashton.
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'Considering how young he is and it's his first season in the Premier League, he has been a revelation.
'The fact he has been playing in a struggling side shows how good an achievement it is. For any player in a team in the bottom half of the table to get close to 20 league goals is outstanding.
'The only problem for Villa is that a lot of clubs will be after him now.'
Ashton regards the 6ft 3in Benteke, who has been capped 13 times by Belgium, as just about the complete player.
He added: 'He has all the main ingredients you need – he has pace, power, is good in the air, scores goals, and his link-up play is very good – there is not a lot missing.
'He works hard, too, he's not a lazy player.'
Benteke scored in Villa's 1-1 draw at home to Norwich in October, and was on target with the fourth goal in their 4-1 Capital One Cup quarter-final win at Carrow Road in December. Team-mate Fabian Delph believes Benteke has not finished for the season.
'We have three games to go and I could put a bet on him to score at least another three or four,' the midfielder told Villa's official website. 'I think he is an absolute monster. Defenders must come up against this boy and think 'He is 22, let's try rough him up'. Every centre-back who has tried it has failed.
'Chris Samba gave him a game recently. But his header against Sunderland - I think his head was above the crossbar.
'It was frightening. I saw him jump. I thought 'He has wings'. He has dragged us through so many games.'
Villa are a point behind the Canaries going into Saturday's crunch match, with manager Chris Hughton today expected to give an update on the fitness of first-choice central defenders Michael Turner and Sébastien Bassong, first in line to deal with Benteke.
Turner is rated 'touch and go' with a groin problem, while Bassong hobbled off towards the end of the 1-0 defeat at Stoke with an unspecified injury.
Whatever line-up Hughton is able to field, Ashton believes City must be more positive than at the Britannia Stadium.
He said: 'It is a huge game. The Stoke game was really disappointing. I watched the whole of the game and not to at least get a shot on target against one of your rivals is really poor.
'Norwich will know that's not good enough and the players will be out to put that right.
'But coming off the back of a 6-1 win Villa will be very confident.
'Norwich have to go for it right at the start. If they can get an early goal, which they have struggled to do in previous games, I think they will be OK.'
Ashton is confident City will not suffer the same fate as in 2005, when he was part of the side relegated to the Championship, because he believes there are more likely casualties.
'I think Wigan will find it hard to get out of it,' he said. 'They are five points away from Villa, Sunderland and Newcastle and six points behind Norwich. And they have won back to back games only once all season.
'I think a draw against Villa will probably do it for Norwich.'