Stoke V Aston Villa at Britannia Stadium : Match Preview

20 December 2013 06:02
Stoke V Aston Villa - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Hughes waits on Shawcross

Stoke boss Mark Hughes hopes captain Ryan Shawcross will be fit to face Aston Villa in Saturday's Barclays Premier League clash at the Britannia Stadium.

The defender suffered a groin problem in Wednesday's Capital One Cup defeat by Manchester United and will be given a late fitness test.

Shawcross' absence would be a major blow given his centre-back partner Robert Huth (knee) is still out, while strikers Peter Crouch (groin) and Jonathan Walters (ankle) are also doubts.

Stoke have picked up five points from three games since a 4-0 thrashing by Everton and are unbeaten at home in the league since September.

"It's an important game for us," said Hughes.

"We were disappointed in midweek to go out of the League Cup obviously but there's games one after the other and we've got an opportunity to get over the disappointment.

"We want to keep our decent run going in the Premier League and keep our home form going."

Villa will be without forward Gabriel Agbonlahor but have midfielder Fabian Delph back available.

Agbonlahor is suspended after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season, but Delph is set to feature having now completed the ban he was serving for the same reason.

Gary Gardner has returned to first-team involvement having recovered from a back complaint and fellow midfielder Chris Herd should be fit to play after a facial injury, but captain and defender Ron Vlaar (calf) is still a major doubt, while it remains to be seen whether or not striker Christian Benteke - now without a goal in his last 10 Villa appearances - keeps his place in the first XI.

Manager Paul Lambert expects taking on Stoke at the Britannia to be just as tough an assignment as it was when Tony Pulis was in charge of the hosts.

Being hard to beat at their own ground was a key feature of the Potters under the management of Pulis, who guided them to relatively comfortable finishes around mid-table in the Premier League every season after overseeing their promotion to the division in 2008.

He was succeeded over the summer by his fellow Welshman Hughes and there have been signs this term of the Staffordshire outfit playing in a more flowing, passing style than they did under their previous manager.

But while there might be change on that front, results would suggest Stoke - currently 13th - remain as difficult to defeat on their own turf as ever, having lost only one of their eight home league games so far in 2013/14.

Lambert said: "I don't think it'll be any different from what it was up there last year.

"Mark took over from a really successful manager in Tony and he's added one or two of his own type.

"But no matter what type of football Stoke are playing, it's a tough place to go."

Source: PA