Tim Sherwood began life as Aston Villa manager with a frustrating last-gasp loss to Stoke City in February. Having recovered from that setback to keep the Villans in the Premier League and to lead them out at Wembley for the FA Cup final, his team’s early form in 2015-16, which has brought one point from six games after beating the Cherries on the opening day, and an emerging pattern of losing by one-goal margins suggest it could well be another season of struggle for the boys from B6, despite the boss promising fans otherwise.

Today’s opponents are the Potters, who are currently two points and one place above Sherwood’s side in the Premier League table, having recorded their first win of the season last time out at home against A.F.C. Bournemouth. It has been the second-worst start ever to a Premier League campaign for the Potters and a win for the hosts this afternoon would see the Villans escape the relegation zone and allow them to move ahead of Hughes’ team.

However, the odds aren’t exactly in our favour, with the Villans registering just one win in their last seven games against Stoke City at Villa Park and just two in the last eleven meetings in total. With sixteen Premier League losses in 2015, more than any other top flight team, Sherwood will know the importance of this game, as another loss would mean equalling the club’s worst start to a season in 1986, when the Villans had four points after eight games.

Recent form:

Aston Villa: L L L D L
Stoke City: W D L L D

Team news:

Adama Traoré is a doubt, having picked up an ankle injury in the League Cup win over Notts County and suffering a setback while playing for the U21s earlier in the week.

Sherwood is confident that Idrissa Gueye will be fit to face the Potters.

Gabby Agbonlahor, who missed the 3-2 defeat at Anfield last weekend due to a calf injury, is also a major doubt.

Midfielder Ashley Westwood could make his one hundredth appearance for Aston Villa this afternoon.

Possible line-up:

Guzan
Hutton Richards Clark Amavi
Westwood Gueye
Gil Grealish Sinclair
Gestede

The opposition:

Many feel that the table does indeed lie when it comes to Stoke City and that the Potters are much better than the team’s results this season would suggest. Having taken four points from their last two Premier League games and having beaten Fulham in the Capital One Cup, the manager claims his players are “in good spirits at the moment” and says they will be able to “take heart” from pleasing performances in previous visits to Villa Park.

Winless in eight Premier League away matches, Hughes will be hoping to spark improvement with back-to-back wins, conscious of the threat the towering Rudy Gestede poses against a side unable to keep a clean sheet this season.

Stoke City captain Ryan Shawcross, who has had back surgery, is not expected to return to action until after the international break.

Hughes has said that the club’s record signing, Xherdan Shaqiri, has a “50-50 chance” of playing this afternoon after picking up a thigh injury last weekend.

Marc Wilson is likely to miss this match due to a calf problem.

Match information:

Referee: Mike Jones
Venue: Villa Park
Kick-off: 3p.m.
Tickets: Tickets still available to home supporters, priced from £27 for adults
Last meeting: 21st February 2015 – Aston Villa 1 – Stoke City 2

Predictions:

1-2 – Mark Lawrenson
1-1 – Paul Merson
2-1 – AnneMc

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