Premier League Preview: Stoke City - Aston Villa
Paul Lambert's men have won just two of their last 10 games and travel to the Britannia Stadium where the home side beat Chelsea last time out in the Premier League.
By James Willoughby
Despite sitting 11th in the table, Villa has lost consecutive matches to Fulham and Manchester United, failing to score and conceding five in the process.
Villa has won just two of its last 10, but has shown an ability to grind out draws and manager Paul Lambert is encouraged by his squad's attitude.
"We're stronger as a group and we're growing stronger all the time," Lambert told the Birmingham Mail. "Defeats are part of the job, but you simply dust yourself down and get right back at it. This attitude is increasingly evident in our play and the way we can deal with adversity.
"We're still a work in progress and we're nowhere near the finished article, but the foundations are in place."
Lambert will be hopeful striker Christian Benteke returns to form, with the Belgium forward now having failed to score in more than three months.
Benteke's last goal came in a 2-1 home defeat against Newcastle United in mid-September and his return of four goals in 14 Premier League fixtures is a far cry from his 19-goal haul last term.
Villa has not had a regular source of goals this season, with Libor Kozak (three goals) and Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann (one each in the league) failing to fire consistently.
One player who has starred this season has been 24-year-old midfielder Fabian Delph, though, with the former Leeds United product tipped for an England call-up after a superb run of form.
Stoke City has climbed to 13th on the back of a three-match unbeaten league run, but will be downcast after a 2-0 Capital One Cup quarterfinal defeat to Manchester United on Wednesday.
Mark Hughes' side is slowly starting to show signs of improvement, but Stoke has not scored in four of its last five fixtures.
Captain Ryan Shawcross injured his groin against his former club United and will miss Saturday's match, as will normal central defensive partner Robert Huth (knee).
That will mean Hughes has to use his squad, with Marc Wilson and Marc Muniesa potentially filling the center back positions.
Matthew Etherington (back) is Stoke's only other worry, but he could still feature, while midfielder Stephen Ireland is ineligible under the terms of his loan deal from Villa.
The likes of Joe Bennett (back), Jores Okore (knee) and Charles N'Zogbia (calf) are no closer to a return for Villa and uncertainty surrounds injuries suffered by Ron Vlaar (calf) and Chris Herd (facial injury).
Stoke has not won one of the last five meetings against Villa – four have been draws – but the home side has happy memories of facing the Midlands club.
Stoke's first Premier League win came against Villa in Aug. 2008, as Mamady Sidibe scored an injury-time winner in a 3-2 thriller.
Top 3 Predictions
Stoke 1-1 Aston Villa
- 18.81 %
Stoke 2-1 Aston Villa
- 17.82 %
Stoke 2-2 Aston Villa
- 10.89 %
|English Premier League (EPL) (EPL)||Mar 23, 2014||Aston Villa 1 - Stoke 4|
|English Premier League (EPL) (EPL)||Dec 21, 2013||Stoke 2 - Aston Villa 1|
|English Premier League (EPL) (EPL)||Apr 6, 2013||Stoke 1 - Aston Villa 3|
|English Premier League (EPL) (EPL)||Dec 8, 2012||Aston Villa 0 - Stoke 0|
|English Premier League (EPL) (EPL)||Apr 9, 2012||Aston Villa 1 - Stoke 1|
|Apr 12, 2014||Stoke 1 - Newcastle 0||EPL|
|Apr 5, 2014||Chelsea 3 - Stoke 0||EPL|
|Mar 29, 2014||Stoke 1 - Hull 0||EPL|
|Mar 23, 2014||Aston Villa 1 - Stoke 4||EPL|
|Mar 15, 2014||Stoke 3 - West Ham 1||EPL|
|8||Karim El Ahmadi||Midfielder|
|21||Jordan Nathaniel Bowery||Striker|