Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has backed striker Christian Benteke to end his slump but admits there is “no hiding place” for the £32.5m signing.
The 25-year-old has not scored for 11 matches, a run stretching back to St Stephen’s Day, and has just seven goals for the season.
He is still Liverpool’s top scorer, which speaks volumes about the Reds’ general form in front of goal, but with Daniel Sturridge making his long-awaited return from injury in Tuesday’s FA Cup exit at West Ham, Benteke’s situation will come under more scrutiny.
Klopp has spoken to the Belgium international about his struggles but admits only the player can really help himself.
“I can do a lot of things but at the end - and it is not only with Christian - the last important help comes from the player himself,” said the Reds boss.
“It is not the easiest period of his career but the number of opportunities (he is getting) is a good sign, if he had no opportunities it would be a much bigger problem but it is not too easy.”
Villa boss Remi Garde is fearful of a scoring return for Benteke. He said: “I know he is a tremendous goalscorer. He has been in this position last season and probably helped Aston Villa a lot to be safe.
“When you play for a new team it is always difficult to settle in. I just know that he’s threatening players if he is playing, anywhere and anyhow, whether he’s been playing well or not in previous weeks.”
Meanwhile, Sturridge seems likely to be eased back in after his first appearance for two months, coming off the bench to play for over an hour at Upton Park.
Klopp will take no chances with the England international, who has played just seven times this season.
“He feels good and I have heard nothing else. We have to think about how we can manage the minutes but he made a big step in the last week and that is good,” he said.
Another welcome boost at West Ham was the return of playmaker Philippe Coutinho after a month out with a hamstring injury.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved