Stoke v Aston Villa – Match preview and team news

In a clash that has been billed as one of the biggest of the season for both clubs, the costs of defeat cannot even be considered by either Stoke City or Aston Villa as they prepare to face off at the Britannia.

For the hosts, it has been a slow decline but the heights of their Boxing Day destruction of Liverpool which left them on the cusp of the European places. Since then, there has only been one win from 12 league matches, with that sole success coming at home to bottom club Reading by a slender 2-1 scoreline.

That run has left the Potters only four points above 18th-placed Aston Villa and while relegation is not being considered just yet, a defeat at home to the Villains on Saturday afternoon would close to gap to just a single point with only six points left to play and leave Tony Pulis with ever more pressure on his shoulders.

The Welshman at least has a near full-strength to choose from, with only winger Matthew Etherington a doubt after failing to completely shake off the groin and back complaints that forced him to miss the defeat at Everton last week.

Ironically, despite their ominous league position there seems to be a mood of optimism around Aston Villa of late. Paul Lambert’s side may have been defeated at home to Liverpool last week but their first-half performance, allied to recent successes over QPR and West Ham have boosted spirits that the Midlands-based club can survive despite their current position in the drop zone.

The Villains could be without defender Ciaran Clark however, who is struggling with a shoulder injury but winger Brett Holman comes back into fold after recovering from a hamstring strain.

Andreas Weimann is a doubt with a hamstring problem of his own while the likes of Chris Herd, Marc Albrighton (both ankle) and Richard Dunne (groin) remain absent.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Stoke v Aston Villa

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