Preview: Aston Villa v Stoke

17 December 2009 01:56
High-flying Aston Villa host Stoke City on Saturday looking to consolidate their position in the top four. Following three straight wins in the league, the Villans have leapt up the table to fourth spot in the Premier League, taking advantage of Spurs' recent slump in form with three points at home to Hull before away wins at Manchester United and Sunderland. Back on home turf, manager Martin O'Neill will be hoping his side can continue their run over a Stoke side that have picked up only one win on the road in the top-flight this season. The Potters have struggled to find the net away from the Britannia Stadium in the league this season, failing to score in their last two and they are yet to score more than once on a road trip in 2009/10. However, Stoke have previous this season in upstaging in-form clubs in the Premier League, as Dean Whitehead told the club's website: "We went to Spurs when nobody expected us to get anything because they were flying at the time and we managed to get all three points, so it can be done." Last season, Tony Pulis' men came out the best over the course of these two encounters, twice snatching points away from the Villans in injury time. Firstly at home as Mamady Sidibe's 90th-minute strike gave them their first-ever win in the Premier League (3-2) before Glenn Whelan struck from outside the box in injury time to claim a 2-2 draw for his team at Villa Park in March. Fortunately for O'Neill, he may be able to welcome two players back to his line-up as both James Collins (groin) and Wilfred Bouma (ankle) are possibilities to return from injury, though Curtis Davies (shoulder) remains out until January. Amdy Faye (back) is the only first-team injury for the Potters, though the spotlight is likely to fall on whether or not James Beattie is in the starting line-up after a reconciliation following his alleged bust-up with manager Pulis.

Source: ESA