Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has branded speculation over the future of Southampton counterpart Nigel Adkins "ridiculous" as they prepare to do battle at St Mary's.
Saints sit bottom of the table having conceded 14 goals in their four defeats so far, despite Adkins being among the country's biggest spenders over the summer. But Villa boss Lambert, whose own side endured a tricky opening few weeks before registering their first win against Swansea a week ago, is sympathetic towards his rival.
"It's getting a bit silly now," he said.
"With what he's done for them, and when it's only four games into the season, I think it's a bit ridiculous. But football is like that - you just never know what's around the corner. It's getting harder and harder every year but I think that's really unfair.
"Nigel's done a great job at Southampton. In the last few years they have done fantastically well getting promoted twice. The Premier League is an unforgiving division. Every game is hard, whoever you are playing. It doesn't matter if it's a side in the top six or bottom six. It's a hard, hard league."
Villa fans are eager to see more of recent signing Christian Benteke after the striker's goalscoring cameo against Swansea. The Belgium international is pushing for a place alongside Darren Bent on the south coast and Lambert reckons the young forward is an exciting proposition.
"Benteke is only 21, that's what you have to remember," the Scot said. "He's only a kid and he's just starting his career. But his role in the last 15 minutes or so against Swansea was excellent.
"He came over after playing a hard game for his national team in the week, coming back and playing for us, doing what he did, was excellent. He's only 21 and he'll make mistakes like everybody else but I thought he was excellent.
"He'll certainly give us a hand. There's no two ways about it - he's a big presence up there and his presence alone will un-nerve a few people. I was delighted with his contribution against Swansea, as I was with everybody's. The whole team was excellent."
Lambert has no new injury concerns but faces a decision over whether to throw Benteke in or keep Andreas Weimann up front. Villa have Chris Herd and Fabian Delph available after injuries but Marc Albrighton (foot) is not quite ready and Richard Dunne (groin) and Gary Gardner (ligaments) are long-term absentees.
- Paul Lambert
- Nigel Adkins