Stoke City will be aiming to carry on from where they left off last season as they take on Aston Villa, who are among the favourites for relegation.
Mark Hughes’ team ended last term playing some scintillating football as they sealed their first top half finish in the Premier League. This time around, the focus is no longer on just merely staying up, and the signings of striking duo Mame Biram Diouf and former Barcelona starlet Bojan Krkic indicate that they have ambitions of bettering the achievements of 2013-14.
The away side do not have much cause for optimism as they are still surrounded in uncertainty over the ownership of the club. Despite putting the club up for sale back in May, Randy Lerner is yet to find a buyer, which has significantly hindered their transfer activity this summer. Roy Keane has joined the club as assistant manager, but after two seasons of struggle, Villa look even more vulnerable this time around.
The Potters have an almost fully-fit squad available, with Andy Wilkinson the only absentee with a groin injury. As well as Bojan and Diouf, Phil Bardsley and Steve Sidwell could make their first starts for the club.
Summer signings Aly Cissokho, Kieran Richardson and Philippe Senderos are all in line to make their Aston Villa debuts, but Joe Cole is doubtful. Strikers Christian Benteke and Libor Kozak both miss out due to injury.
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