Paul Lambert says the impending return of Christian Benteke has given his squad a big lift.
A knee injury has kept Benteke out of Villa's last three games against Stoke, Crystal Palace and Swansea.
But the Belgian striker resumed training on Monday and is in line for a recall for this afternoon's clash against Sunderland.
Lambert is remaining cautious over the 22-year-old's chances of featuring at the Stadium of Light.
Nevertheless, the Villa boss said Benteke's presence on the training field has provided the rest of the players with a major fillip.
"It is a big boost to have him back because of his presence," said Lambert.
"Whether I throw him in because he has been off for a couple weeks, I don't know."
Lambert hopes Benteke can kick off the new calendar year in similar fashion to 12 months ago.
After netting at Swansea on New Year's Day, the forward emarbarked on a run of 14 goals in 18 games in the latter part of the campaign.
But Lambert has warned against placing too much pressure on the forward.
"If he can go and perform the way he did at the turn of the year last year then he'll have another massive impact," the manager said.
"The thing with Christian is he is a young guy. Everybody put him on a pedestal of being fantastic.
"He is only 22 years of age. He has got years to go. He will have spells where he doesn't perform and his confidence will suffer along with every other young player.
"They lose confidence quicker than an experienced lad.
"But if he comes back and does what he did at the start of last year then he'll kick on again."
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