Stoke City v Aston Villa – the preview

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After the abysmal performance against Liverpool two weeks ago, the Villans will travel to the Britannia Stadium this afternoon in search of three valuable points. Normally, I would expect to see a team looking to avenge a 6-0 loss with a decent performance. Worryingly, Rémi Garde’s comments during the week indicated that he isn’t seeing full commitment from certain members of the squad every day in training.

Travelling to the Potteries is never an easy task for any side, with not many backing the visiting team to pick up three points against Mark Hughes’ men.

Match details:

Venue: Britannia Stadium

Date: Saturday 27th February 2016

Kick-off: 15:00

Referee: Kevin Friend

Team news:

Garde will welcome Rudy Gestede back to first team action after the striker missed a month due to a hamstring injury.

Jordan Ayew will serve the final game of his three-match ban after being sent off against West Ham, with the Ghanian’s explosiveness in the final third being missed of late..

Jack Grealish and Libor Kozák both remain sidelined due to ankle injuries.

Carlos Sánchez is still out because of a hamstring injury.

Adama Traoré is closing in on a return to football, although this game will come too soon for the winger.

The opposition:

Marko Arnautović is back after overcoming the illness that caused him to miss his team’s last game.

Influential defender Ryan Shawcross looks set to miss out due to a back injury.

Marc Muniesa will not feature due to a hamstring injury.

Glen Johnson, who has seemingly found good form again since joining Stoke City, will not be available because of a knee injury.

Geoff Cameron will face a late fitness test and may be involved in today’s game.

The danger men:

Manager Mark Hughes has built a team that screams attacking quality. The signing of Xherdan Shaqiri signalled the Potters’ intention to aim for the upper echelons of the Premier League. Another striking options is Bojan Krkić and the former Barcelona man has been very good for Stoke City when fit.

However, the player the Villans will have to watch most closely is Marko Arnautović. In recent seasons, the Austrian international has been decent yet he always looked like a player who had never reached his full potential. Throughout his career, the potential has been there but the work-rate hasn’t. This season, the forward has been in great form. As he is playing with top class players week in, week out, he has been forced to move up a level and this season he has flourished.

Marko Arnautović is currently Stoke City’s top goal scorer with seven goals and he has also provided five assists. The Villa defenders will have to pay close attention to him as he has seemingly been given a free role that enables him to move all across the pitch as he pleases.

Recent form:

In all competitions, the Villans have lost three, drawn one and won one (L W L L D).

Away from home, Garde’s charges have lost three and drawn two (L D D L L).

The Potters hit a bad patch recently. In all competitions, they have won once, lost three and drawn once (W L L L D).

At home, their form seems a little better, having won twice, lost twice and drawn once (L D W L W).

In the past:

The corresponding fixture between the last two sides last October was a very tight, cagey affair. In fact, the Villans could count themselves unlucky not to take any points from the game. One slight lapse in concentration in the Villa defence allowed Marko Arnautović to tap in from close range to hand Stoke City victory. Despite losing, the Villa boys had the lion’s share of possession and had some decent attempts on goal, all too typically lacking a killer instinct.

In the last five fixtures between the two sides, the Villans have only beaten the Potters once. The Potters beat the Villans in the other four fixtures.

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