Aston Villa will be determined to escape the bottom three and pick up their first Premier League win since opening weekend when they take on a Stoke City side that is keen to kick on after gaining opening their account for victories last time out.
Tim Sherwood seemed resigned to another battle against relegation after Villa came up short at Liverpool in what was their fifth defeat in six league outings. His new-look, youthful squad have shown themselves capable of playing some very attractive football this term, but more often than not their naivety has helped get the better of them. If the mistakes can be ironed out, there is enough ability at the club to see them towards a mid-table position.
They were second best throughout at Anfield, but the aerial prowess of Rudy Gestede kept the Villans in the game until the final whistle; the burly striker proving that he can be a very effective target man, particularly if Jordan Amavi can continue to produce quality service from the left. Although they carry more of a threat from open play, Stoke have been vulnerable at defending set-pieces in recent times, so Gestede may sense a chance from those situations.
Unsurprisingly, relief was the overriding emotion for Stoke when they finally collected their first win of the season against Bournemouth, and given the quality they have, they will surely kick on from here. The Villa defence faces a stern test from the likes of Bojan Krkic, Marco van Ginkel and Marko Arnautovic; with the Austrian in especially fine form, emphasising the creative talent that manager Mark Hughes now has at his disposal.
Their presence also means that Villa cannot afford to make the kind of errors that have cost them over the last few weeks, while strikers Mame Biram Diouf and Jonathan Walters are also proving adept at seizing on defensive indecision. There were some obvious nerves from Stoke as they sought to hold off the Cherries and Jack Butland was required again to pull off another incredible save, but those will surely subside here as they look for their third successive win at Villa Park.
Gabriel Agbonlahor is a major doubt for Aston Villa as he continues to recover from a calf injury. Adama Traore is definitely out.
Stoke have concerns over the fitness of Xherdan Shaqiri, who has a thigh strain, while Marc Wilson is likely to miss out again.
Last Meeting: Tim Sherwood lost his first game in charge of Villa back in February as Stoke scored a late penalty to claim a deserved three points. Victor Moses won and converted the spot-kick in the 90th minute, with Ron Vlaar sent off for bringing down the winger. The hosts had taken the lead through Scott Sinclair’s header, but Mame Biram Diouf levelled before half-time with a close range finish.
Played for both – John Carew: The powerful Norwegian striker became a popular figure at Villa during a four-year stay between 2007 and 2011, scoring many important goals to help the club to three successive sixth-placed finishes and the League Cup final in 2010. He went on loan to Stoke in 2011 for a 10-game spell, with his only goal proving to be the winner against Sunderland in February of that year.
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