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Aston Villa-Fulham Preview

AP - Sports

Aston Villa look to heap more misery on Fulham when they visit Craven Cottage on Sunday on the heels of a five-match unbeaten run.

Manager Paul Lambert's gamble of dropping the stuttering Christian Benteke paid dividends in Wednesday's 3-2 victory at Southampton - the Saints' first defeat at St Mary's.

''I thought we deserved to win the game. There have been times when we have had loads of the ball and got nothing. All you get is a pat on the back,'' Lambert said. ''We needed three points and I thought we were lethal in front of goal.''

Benteke entered as a substitute in the 66th minute as his goalless run reached eight matches. The Belgium international had started his previous five appearances, and he could be back in the lineup if Lambert again uses rotation. Villa have two wins and three draws in their last five.

Rene Meulensteen's debut as Fulham boss ended in disappointment in Wednesday's 2-1 home defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. The Cottagers have lost six on the trot for the first time since February to March 2002.

There was cause for optimism for Fulham, who have been outscored 14-2 in the five-game slide that caused owner and chairman Shahid Khan to sack Martin Jol. The Cottagers took a 56th-minute lead through Ashkan Dejagah only to see Spurs equalise through a goal by Vlad Chiriches that came from nothing to change the momentum of the match.

Fulham enter the weekend in 18th place on 10 points.

"Everybody was disappointed, the players, including myself but I took a lot of heart from that game and that performance," Meulensteen said. "I think the club and the players recently have gone through tough times. But the way they reacted (Wednesday) was immense and fantastic and it creates a great platform for the up and coming games."

Meulensteen made sweeping changes with seven new players in the side. John Arne Riise made his first start since Aug. 31 and Dejagah went the full 90 for the second time. Under-fire Dimitar Berbatov retained his place.

Craven Cottage was at full throat against Spurs, and the new manager has called on a similar showing from the faithful this weekend even though Fulham's four points from seven home matches represent the Premier League's worst haul.

"I know that also in the past the fans of Fulham have won games for Fulham," Meulensteen said. "And if they keep doing this, if they keep giving their support, I'm 100 percent sure, 100 percent sure that the results are coming back as well."

Villa will make their fourth trip to London of the campaign. They have beaten leaders Arsenal, lost to Chelsea and drawn West Ham United.

Lambert's side enter this weekend in 10th place after they blew two leads against the Saints before Fabian Delph's stunning 25-yard strike in the 80th minute gave them all three points.

"There was a lot of grit and determination in the boys," Delph told Aston Villa's official website. "There has always been belief. There are good characters here too. We are in a good position."

Fulham earned a win and a draw over Villa last season. The Villans had been 3-0-3 in the previous six meetings.

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