Villa v Crystal Palace preview: Lambert - Eagles lifted by Pulis
Paul Lambert has warned his players to expect a bounce from Boxing Day opponents Crystal Palace.
While newly-promoted Palace remain in the Barclays Premier League relegation zone following Saturday's 3-0 defeat at the hands of Newcastle, Lambert is conscious that the Tony Pulis effect is paying dividends for the Eagles.
Since taking over from Ian Holloway last month, Pulis has guided the south west London club to two wins from five games.
Villa got a flavour of things to come over the weekend against Stoke, whose strong foundations were laid by Pulis during a successful seven-year spell.
And Lambert expects the Welshman's new club to be similarly well-drilled.
"He's an infectious guy," said the Villa boss.
"He's good company. He's given them a lift. It will be a tough game. Every game is hard in the league.
"You look at the job he did at Stoke - he didn't get the credit he deserved.
"The way the club is now is probably down to him.
"He has his way of playing. You have to respect that. There's no right and wrong way, it's what you think.
"He's given Palace a lift, there's no two ways about it.
"It's whether they keep sustaining that. He will know that. He's been in the game longer than I have."
The Christmas period last term was an unhappy one for Villa, with defeats to Chelsea, Tottenham and Wigan.
Nevertheless, Lambert will be hoping his team can thrive on the upbeat festive atmosphere in B6.
While there is a long-standing debate over introducing a winter break into the English football calendar, the claret and blues chief is a big fan of the traditional Boxing Day fixtures.
"Boxing Day always has that special atmosphere," he said.
"There's a short turnaround until Swansea. It's a period where everyone enjoys it.
"Other leagues have the winter break. They have more downtime and more time to relax.
"In Britain, we seem to enjoy these occasions. We will see what happens."
Another subplot to Palace's trip to B6 is the return of Bodymoor Heath academy graduate Barry Bannan.
The Scottish midfielder ended his nine-year association with Villa in the summer by moving to Selhurst Park.
Lambert felt the time was right to freshen up his squad - but he believes the switch has worked out well for his compatriot.
"The thing with Barry is he played a lot of games," he added.
"It's not like he never played. We felt we had to keep changing.
"He found something in Palace. He's only a young guy. He has his whole career in front of him."
Villa v Crystal Palace
Christian Benteke is rated as "unlikely" to feature against Palace as he continues to recover from a knee injury.
"We will see how things go with Christian, but it's unlikely," said manager Paul Lambert.
"It's his knee giving him a little bit of concern.
"I don't think it's long term. But he's carrying one or two little things that we need to sort out.
"Hopefully it's not too long before he's back."
Villa will be wearing their traditional home kit of claret and blue.
BetBright matchday odds:
Villa to win - 5/6
None of the last 13 matches in all competitions between Villa and Palace has ended as an away win [seven home wins and six draws].
No team have picked up fewer away points than Palace this season [three, level with Sunderland].
Palace's four Premier League games on Boxing Day have produced a total of only five goals.
Villa took part in the highest-scoring Premier League game on Boxing Day when they drew 4-4 with Chelsea in 2007.
Villa's match console is the ultimate place to be to follow the game with Crystal Palace.
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