Tim Sherwood takes charge of struggling Aston Villa for the first time as they take on injury-ravaged Midlands rivals Stoke City on Saturday.
Coach Scott Marshall’s parting act was to manage the Villans to victory over Leicester City in the FA Cup on Sunday, in a game which saw the team show plenty more attacking intent than they had for most of the season under previous boss Paul Lambert. It leaves Sherwood with a lot to build on.
The immediate task for the former Tottenham Head Coach will be to haul the club out of the bottom three, and in order to lift them up the table he needs Christian Benteke to regain his confidence in front of goal. Meanwhile, Scott Sinclair suggested in the closing stages against Leicester that he could be a useful acquisition despite his recent lack of games.
There is arguably no better time to face Stoke than right now. The news that Marc Muniesa will be out for six weeks leaves them without a recognised senior central defender, which is particularly worrying after the manner in which they were picked apart by Championship Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup last time out.
The Potters are comfortably in mid-table and having another solid season, but manager Mark Hughes will be concerned that his side have been unable to build on strong starts in each of their last two matches. Indeed, they have gone on to lose 4-1 on both occasions, and they must offer a makeshift back four enough protection to avoid a repeat here.
Aston Villa are hopeful that injured trio Nathan Baker, Carles Gil and Philippe Senderos will all be fit enough to return here. Brad Guzan is likely to regain his place in goal.
Muniesa joins captain Ryan Shawcross and Marc Wilson on the Stoke injury list, with forwards Bojan Krkic and Peter Odemwingie also out. Geoff Cameron serves a one-match ban.
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