Baggies striker relishing taking on close pal in white-hot derby atmosphereROMELU Lukaku is hoping he can make his FIFA 13 PlayStation dominance over close pal Christian Benteke and Villa a reality in Saturday’s Hawthorns clash (ko 5.30pm).
The Belgian international strikers have known each other since their early teenage years and have enjoyed a friendly rivalry throughout their careers that will come under the Barclays Premier League spotlight in this weekend’s West Midlands derby.
The duo are also competing for their country’s No.9 shirt and nine-goal Lukaku is hoping he can beat Benteke, who has six top-flight strikes to his name for the Claret & Blues this term, to three precious points.
“I’ve known Christian since I was 14,” said the on-loan hitman.
“I met him the first time when he was at Genk – I was playing for Anderlecht Under-17s and he was playing for their Under-19s.
“We spoke a little bit and I met him again the year after in the reserves. We also played together for Belgium Under-21s.
“He’s a good player, a very good header of the ball and someone who can hold it up well.
“He has good technical qualities and is a great finisher.
“He can really make the difference for his team and be very dangerous."
Lukaku added: “I get together with Yassine [El Ghanassy] and Christian sometimes.
“We play PlayStation and talk about the old times in Belgium and the national team.
“They are good memories and we have a laugh.
“Christian is a very good guy and we also come from the same country, DR Congo, so it is sometimes nice to speak in our own language.
“We talk a lot about the Premier League and how we can improve and try to bring the best out of each other.
“We play for rival clubs but we wish each other the best.
“In Belgium, we also played for rival clubs when I was at Anderlecht and he was at Standard Liege.
“It’s a friendly rivalry and we will see each other after the game."
The 19-year-old hotshot knows what buttons to push for the Baggies to get the better of Villa on the computer screen – but must now use his feet to try to translate that success onto the pitch in front of the live TV cameras.
“I play FIFA 13 on the PlayStation all the time," he said.
“When we’re away with the national team, I ask Christian to play me - but he doesn’t dare!
“Eden Hazard cannot play either! They watch videos together so I have to play against someone else.
“We haven’t played Albion v Villa on the PlayStation yet but we will and I’ll beat Christian easily!
“There are not a lot of people who can beat me.
“The only player who dares to play against me is Yassine.
“No-one could beat me at Anderlecht, nor Chelsea.
“A few players have played me here, like Marco, but no-one has been able to compete with me yet.
“I’ve played as Albion and play Wolves all the time!
“When I played Villa last time, I won 3-0.
“I’ve never lost to Villa on FIFA 13. I did draw once but I didn’t play extra-time because it takes too long! I’m not that patient on FIFA 13!”
Lukaku is short of derby experience and is relishing another chance to sample the white-hot atmosphere of an Albion-Villa clash.
The 6ft3in hitman came on as an 72nd-minute substitute in September’s 1-1 draw at Villa Park after joining the Baggies only seven weeks earlier.
And, after bagging four goals in his last four league starts, he is eager to carry that form into Saturday’s encounter with Paul Lambert’s third-bottom side, who shipped eight goals against his parent club Chelsea last month.
“The first match against Villa was the first derby where I experienced something else because back in Belgium only in the youth teams do you have Anderlecht versus Brussels,” said Lukaku.
“In the first team at Anderlecht, I had no derbies and at Chelsea only one against Arsenal, when I came on as a late sub.
“The first one here against Villa was really something good.
“I liked our crowd getting noisy and supporting us.
“It brings me joy and hopefully it will be the same this weekend.
“It would be great to beat Villa and make sure we are the number one team in the Birmingham area - but it'll be a tough game.
“We’re not seventh in the league for no reason, though.
“Recently, we’ve had some disappointing results but every team has these moments.
“I think the Villa game will be the perfect motivation to try and rediscover our top form.
“The Reading game was disappointing, as was Tuesday, but now I’m burning for a win.
“If we can win this one, it will help us stay at the top end of the table.”