And Baggies boss backs defence to withstand Benteke test
STEVE Clarke has backed Jonas Olsson to overcome his World Cup disappointment and raise himself for the challenge of keeping Villa’s Christian Benteke quiet in Monday’s West Midlands derby (ko 8pm).
The giant Swede watched from the bench as his country lost their play-off to Portugal over two legs to miss out on next summer’s finals in Brazil.
He returned to Baggies training yesterday and Clarke revealed he has spoken to the centre-half, who will join forces with Gareth McAuley at the heart of the Albion defence to try and stop last season’s Barclays Premier League 19-goal fourth top scorer.
“I had a good chat with Jonas yesterday morning," said the Albion head coach.
“He’d obviously liked to have been involved in the World Cup finals.
“But he’s philosophical and knows it was a tough ask for them; Portugal are a good team.
“Unfortunately for Sweden, it proved too much for them.
“I don’t think he’ll carry it into the game on Monday.
“He’s a level-headed person, he’s an intelligent guy, and he’ll move on quickly.
“He’ll be ready to go on Monday night.”
Big Belgian Benteke opened the scoring in last term’s 2-2 draw between the two sides at The Hawthorns.
But Clarke has faith his defence, who have kept four league clean sheets this season, can handle him.
“Hopefully Jonas and Gareth will do well and control the game,” he added.
“Benteke has been a revelation since he signed for Aston Villa.
“He had a great season last year and he’s got in and among the goals again this season.
“He’s a top player and my defenders will need to be on their toes to handle him.
“I’ve got confidence in the guys they can do it.”