Very few Villa fans could have predicted at the start of the season that an away game against Stoke could have so many implications on the remainder of our season. In previous years, the trips to the Britannia have been less than memorable, with 2 draws and 2 defeats from the 4 ties so far. What odds are there on Villa finally recording a victory come 5pm on Saturday evening, I hear you ask? Well, I have a sneaky feeling this could finally be the time that we take all 3 points with us back to B6. A win against the Potters would not only influence the survival hopes of our beloved claret and blue troops, it would also drag Tony Pulis and his rugby, sorry football, side into the relegation battle that many of their fans had not even begun to contemplate up until now.
So what would a win for Villa mean for the remainder of the campaign? Well, a victory would leave us on 33 points which would be 1 point less than our upcoming rivals and even if we do win then we will still be rightly considered in the relegation battle so Stoke must be as well then surely? Also, Reading face Southampton and QPR entertain Wigan this weekend and if my predictions are correct (Reading will draw and Wigan will beat QPR) then I believe that will ultimately be the end of QPR and Reading’s survival hopes. That would leave us with one place left to occupy and about 6 teams all trying to avoid it. Who will get that last place? Your guess is as good as mine…
Having been to the Britannia for the past 4 seasons and failing to see us return victorious (maybe I should stay away for once..) I feel that we can finally get a victory against Stoke. My reasons behind this, I hear you ask? Simple. We have to play our own game and not try to play Stoke at theirs as if we do that then their sheer size and stature will reign supreme once again. We do have Barry Bannan in midfield after all. However, if we use our players in the right manner, which is to get the ball down, retain possession and exploit the counter attack then I have full faith that we will come away with a positive result.
Winger Matthew Etherington is Stoke manager Tony Pulis’ only doubt heading into the weekend. Etherington sat out last week’s 1-0 defeat at Everton with a groin and back complaint, for which he is currently receiving treatment. Pulis, eager not to rush Etherington back into action too soon, will make a decision on his involvement closer to kick-off.
Defender Ciaran Clark remains a major fitness doubt for Aston Villa. Clark suffered a shoulder injury while on international duty for the Republic of Ireland and was ruled out of last weekend’s home setback against Liverpool. Midfielder Brett Holman (hamstring) is available but defender Chris Herd and winger Marc Albrighton (both foot) plus defender Richard Dunne (groin) remain on the casualty list
Stoke City 0-2 Aston Villa
Goalscorers: Benteke (2)