Lambert demands Villa reaction

Alessandro Del Piero is in no rush to finalise his Sydney FC

future as he pours all his energy into helping resurrect the team’s

dismal A-League season.

Del Piero’s stay in the harbour city beyond this term is still

unclear, with the Sky Blues yet to decide whether they will take up

the option of a second year for the 38-year-old striker.

The former Italy international has been a shining light in what

has been a poor campaign for the two-time champions, who are bottom

of the standings with just three wins from 12 games.

Del Piero is loving life in Sydney, but wants to put contract

talks aside to focus on hauling the team up the table.

“I have spent a really good time here,” the 2006 World Cup

winner said.

“We have time to discuss that but at the moment the best thing

for me, the club, the players and everyone is to concentrate on the

games.

“We have to worry about this next period because it’s very

difficult for us and we have to put all our energy, mental and

physical, into it.

“I’m not worried about other things. I’m really enjoying it…

but now have to win a couple more games for more enjoyment.”

Asked when he hoped to have his future resolved, Del Piero said:

“Everything is clear for me and the club.

“We can do it earlier than what we think, but the contract is

not a stress for me.

“I’m really happy to be here. I want to put all my knowledge and

heart into this at the moment and not to talk about (a new

deal).”

The Sky Blues are six points adrift of the finals spots ahead of

a tough three-game stretch which starts against league leaders

Central Coast at Allianz Stadium on Thursday.

Tough away trips against Adelaide and Perth all follow within 10

days in a period that is likely to define the club’s season.

Benteke struggled to adapt to life in the Premier League when he

arrived from Genk for ?7million this August, but the Belgian has

been on a hot streak of form recently to take his season tally to

eight goals.

Vertonghen knows Benteke well from their time together with a

Belgium side littered with individual brilliance, and he knows he

will have to be at his best to keep the towering striker quiet.

“It doesn’t surprise me that he has done well,” Vertonghen

said.

“He now feels the confidence of the team, the crowd and the

manager.

“You could see that in the last two games for the national team

(when Benteke scored in wins over Serbia and Scotland). He was very

good then and I think that Aston Villa made the right choice to

sign him.

“He is very good in the air and he can score. He will be a very

tough player to play against.”

Vertonghen may not be pitted in to direct combat against his

compatriot, however, as he could once again be deployed at

left-back, where he has played since Benoit Assou-Ekotto suffered a

knee injury in September.

With Assou-Ekotto nearing full fitness, Vertonghen hopes to move

back to his favoured position of centre-half.

When asked whether he found it frustrating playing at full-back,

the 25-year-old said: “Yes, and the manager knows.

“I prefer centre-back but I want to help the team.

“It would be good to have Benoit back but not only for that

reason as he is one of the best left-backs in the league.”

Villas-Boas, whose team dropped to sixth in the Premier League

on Saturday with a 0-0 draw against Stoke, will also be without

Clint Dempsey for this evening’s game as he has a groin strain.

Villa’s 8-0 defeat at Chelsea led to renewed fear among the

Villa Park faithful that their team could be destined for

relegation this term.

Villa sit just three points above the relegation zone, but Spurs

right-back Kyle Walker, who spent half a season on loan at Villa

Park two seasons ago, thinks they will survive.

“I think they will be all right,” the 22-year-old told Spurs TV

Online.

“I think they have proved that they can dig in at home.

“I watched them against Manchester United (when Villa

surrendered a two-goal lead to lose 3-2).

“The result didn’t go their way but they are young, energetic

and hungry to win games.”

The 17-year-old’s impressive displays in the Championship has

seen him called up to the England Under-21s squad and linked to a

move away from Pride Park.

Arsenal, Liverpool and even Barcelona have been mentioned as

potential suitors and Jol has now confirmed Hughes is being

monitored by Fulham.

“Believe me, there is probably 10 clubs in the Premier League

having a look at him,” the Dutchman said.

“He is one of these wonderful talents so he is always on lists.

If you have a good scouting system, he will always be on the list

but we will see.”

Fulham have been left short in central midfield following the

summer departures of Mousa Dembele, Danny Murphy and Dickson

Etuhu.

With Mahamadou Diarra soon to head off to the African Nations

Cup with Mali, there have also been suggestions Fulham could move

for Inter Milan’s McDonald Mariga.

“I could easily say I don’t know him but he is the brother of

the Celtic boy [Victor Wanyama]” Jol said.

“He is an interesting player but I have to be honest and say

we’re not looking at him. We did a couple of years ago.”

Meanwhile, is is understood Fulham are closing in on Standard

Liege goalkeeper Sinan Bolat.

The Turkey international has been training with the Cottagers

for the past month as he completes his recovery from long-term

injury.

Bolat’s potential arrival raises questions over the future of

40-year-old Mark Schwarzer and deputy David Stockdale.

Schwarzer’s current deal runs out at the end of the season,

while the latter recently spent a spell on loan at Championship

high-fliers Hull.

Odemwingie has had a fractious relationship with Nigeria coach

Stephen Keshi stretching back to last February when he was

substituted in a friendly against Rwanda.

His exclusion from the initial 32-man party for the African

Nations Cup is the final straw for Albion’s top scorer in the past

two seasons.

Odemwingie said: “It is clear now that my days with the Super

Eagles are over. I expected it (to be left out of the ANC squad)

because we have had a few issues before.

“I played a very good 10 years from 2002 to 2012. I don’t want

to be with a coach who doesn’t want me.

“I still love my country and care about the football but I

already wasn’t feeling the way I would have liked to feel.

“The coach wants to present it in a way that has nothing to do

with football, that I confronted him and said he couldn’t

substitute me early (against Rwanda).

“But we just had a nice conversation and I said to him: ‘Coach,

if you don’t see me in your team, don’t try to find stories, just

tell me. It’s very easy’.

“I just had to wait for his decision, because no matter what

happened, if he called me today I would go and play.

“But I had to wait for his decision, so people know it wasn’t my

decision not to play again.”

Odemwingie added: “Last month I spoke with him (Keshi) because I

didn’t play in a few games with the national team and he said my

body language didn’t show that I wanted to play for the team.

“But body language for the Nigerian coach is that you have to be

calling him all the time and greeting him, but for me football is

an official thing.

“You invite a player and he comes. I don’t have to be like his

son, calling you every day and saying: ‘How are you, sir?’

“I’m not that type of person. They take it as arrogance, but my

mentality is different.”

Odemwingie will now channel his energies into helping Albion

sustain their top-six push in the Premier League and he is also

expecting his first son next month.

He said: “Albion are on a mission. We have just started so nice

this season and maybe we can experience a very great season.

“If I stay here for the extra four games (in January), it could

mean a lot.

“If I’m in good form and score goals and bring points to the

team, I’ll be very happy at the end of the season.

“It is also a plus I can continue to be here for what could be a

very special season for us.

“Even if it doesn’t end up being so, we are going to give it our

best shot and also my son will be born around January 11 which is

something to look forward to.”

The Villa manager is looking for a positive response in

tonight’s home clash with Tottenham after his side were hammered

8-0 at Stamford Bridge on Sunday – the heaviest in the club’s

138-year history.

It brought an end to Villa’s six-game unbeaten run in all

competitions which had lifted them out of the Premier League

relegation zone and into the semi-finals of the Capital One

Cup.

Lambert said: “You analyse Sunday but you can’t over-analyse it

otherwise it will drag you right down.

“You get to a point where you have to let it go and we have

another game coming up against Tottenham on Boxing Day for us to

rectify that.

“How do we get over it? We just go out and try to win the next

game. There’s no magic formula. You just go out and try to win.

“The players know themselves that they let everybody down

against Chelsea.

“It’s how we react; that’s a good marker of a good team, how we

react to it.”

Midfielder Ashley Westwood believes Villa are “building

something special,” although he concedes there will be setbacks to

overcome for the young squad of players assembled by Lambert.

He said: “We are young lads, we are going to have setbacks, we

are going to have disappointing performances.

“But if the fans can stick by us, I think we’re building

something special here.

“We are young lads, we are still learning the game, we are not

going to be at the top of our game week in and week out.”