Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert picks Tom Cleverley on merit

Paul Lambert
Paul Lambert has seen his Aston Villa side go nine league games without a win

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert says on-loan Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley is not guaranteed a place in his starting line-up.

Some home fans cheered when Cleverley, 25, was substituted in Saturday's 2-1 defeat by Chelsea.

Lambert was asked whether he was obliged to start Cleverley under the terms of the loan.

"No way," he said. "I don't judge whether somebody is on loan. You pick a team you think will win a game."

The former Norwich manager added: "Tom gives it everything he has got, everything to try and do well.

"He is one of those guys who never hides from the ball."

"He wants to do well here and sometimes [the booing] is part and parcel of football. It is not nice to hear."

Cleverley moved to Aston Villa on a season-long loan in September, but despite making 20 starts, he is yet to contribute a goal or an assist for Lambert's side.

Lambert on Benteke

Lambert, whose side are 16th in the Premier League table, said it "wasn't a hard decision" to drop striker Christian Benteke for the match against Chelsea.

"I think his form has dipped," the manager said. "He knows that and that is by his own admission when we spoke.

"I expect Christian to take it like any other player and fight [his] way to get back in the side."

Benteke is available for Tuesday's league trip to Hull, but Lambert would not be drawn on whether the Belgian would return.

"I'll decide either today or tomorrow what I think," he said.

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