It has become increasingly hard to write articles about Aston Villa recently. Especially when it comes to match previews and then edit match reports. It feels like our season is already over. Fans are squabbling amongst each other. I generally feel like as a club, we have not truly recovered from the heartbreak on May 26th last year.
Maybe that is part of the problem. Rival fans often refer to us as historians. I personally believe every club should be proud of their future but that’s for another day. We seem to struggle to forgive and forget. As a club, we don’t move on from our failures very well. I don’t believe as a fan base, many of our supporters have truly forgiven the club for being relegated in the first place.
The sooner we move on and get behind our side, we may see progress. I know, it’s hard when you don’t see much fight on the football pitch but what’s the alternative? Because the way I see it, what is happening right now, isn’t working.
I think it is fair to say that the majority of us would agree that the playoffs are no more than a pipe dream. As I said, most of us would agree our season is over. Two wins in fourteen games in all competitions. Why don’t we turn it on its head? Let’s start planning for next season. Make sure we go into the next campaign united as one and fully prepared.
That needs to start today when we take the short trip up the M6 to take on Stoke. Another side who aren’t doing great. Some would argue they are in a worse position than ourselves. We need to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and look to take advantage of this.
A special mention today to Stoke for their tribute to the late Gordon Banks. Goalkeeper Jack Butland will wear a plain green jersey to celebrate the life of the footballing legend.
As I already mentioned, much like ourselves, Stoke has had the campaign to forget. They appointed new manager Nathan Jones on January 9th. Not a lot has improved since the sacking of Gary Rowett. The former Luton boss has managed just one win in nine attempts so far. It appears Stoke have a relegation hangover.
There seem to be so many similarities to our club when we were relegated. Too many overpaid players who don’t care about what happens when the referee blows the whistle. I won’t pretend to try and fully understand what is happening at Stoke. There are probably plenty of Stoke fans who would have their views.
Although they currently sit 17th in the Championship, they are only four points behind Villa in 10th. Relegation shouldn’t be a problem for them but just like ourselves, promotion is very unlikely.
Stoke have struggled to score this season. Benik Afobe is their top goalscorer with 7. However, when they do score, they know how to protect it. They will look to play through balls behind the defence but their attackers tend to get caught offside a fair bit.
ONE TO WATCH
My one to watch this week is Joe Allen. The 28-year-old Welsh midfielder could probably do a job in the Premiership still. In fact, I am surprised someone hasn’t tried to pick him up.
He will look to dictate the game from the middle of the park. An area Villa are weak in. He has contributed to 6 goals and 5 assists to date. The midfielder isn’t scared to put in a tackle but if I was to pick one weakness, it would be in the air.
Dean Smith is hopeful that goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic will be available following a concussion. Tom Carroll and Jack Grealish are back in training but it is thought today’s game has come too soon for them.
Axel Tuanzebe should be back at Bodymoor Heath in early March. Smith is hoping he will be available for selection after the international break. John McGinn is not available through suspension.
Stoke have no new injury problems. Saido Berahino is likely to be the only player unavailable. The former Baggies striker was charged for drink-driving on Monday.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Predicted XI: Kalinic; Hutton, Mings, Elphick, Hause; Whelan, Bjarnason, Hourihane; Adomah, El Ghazi; Abraham.
Kick Off: 15.00
TV: AVTV (Outside of the UK)
Venue: Bet 365 Stadium, Stoke
Tickets: 2,931 (Allocation sold out)
Odds: Stoke 6/5 Aston Villa 9/4 Draw 12/5 (Skybet)