Paul Lambert is ready to unleash striker Christian Benteke as Aston Villa begin their Premier League campaign against Arsenal on Saturday.
The Belgium international's future at Villa Park had looked uncertain during pre-season after handing in a transfer request, but after signing a new contract with the club, he has shown he is ready for the new campaign.
Benteke arrived at Villa in August 2012 on the final day of the transfer window and went on to score 19 goals in his debut league season and 23 in all competitions.
The 22-year-old played a key part in the club's Premier League survival and, after scoring seven goals in five pre-season outings, Lambert is looking forward to seeing him continue to progress.
"Looking at him since he's come back from his break, in the games that he's played, he's been excellent," the Scot said. "He's not lost his goalscoring exploits, to me he's getting better.
"He's growing a lot in confidence, he's a big big athlete and a really top footballer.
"I'm not going to put levels of expectancy on him, he'll have his own standards, heights he wants to achieve.
"At this minute in time, looking at him in training and pre-season, he's ready."
Benteke's arrival at Villa Park restricted the number of appearances made by Darren Bent last season.
Lambert confirmed the England striker is undergoing a medical at Fulham ahead of a proposed move to Craven Cottage.
"He's just away down to Fulham," he added. "I think it's well-documented now that he's down there having a medical and that's the last I've heard."
|6||L. Koscielny||61' 67'|
|Coach: A. Wenger|
for K. Gibbs 28'
for A. Oxlade-Chamberlain 46'
for B. Sagna 90+4'
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