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Stoke City v Aston Villa: Preview
Published : 13 Sep 2010 10:48:04
Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier will not be in charge of his side`s
Barclays Premier League trip to Stoke on Monday night.
Houllier was due to meet Villa`s players on Sunday before flying back home to tie up the loose ends with the French Football Federation after quitting as their technical director to take over in the West Midlands.
The former Liverpool boss will also miss next Saturday's home match with Bolton - although he hopes to attend - and is looking at being at the helm for the Carling Cup game with Blackburn on Wednesday week, although he will be assisted by caretaker boss Kevin MacDonald.
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He said: "I have to go back. I have a very important meeting Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. "Even if I wanted to take a private jet out (to the Stoke game) it wouldn't be possible. "I apologise for that but I will be watching the game on television.
"If all goes to plan the Carling Cup match with be the first game I pick the team for.
"But I will do that with Kevin obviously. I think Kevin will stay alongside me (for that game)."
MacDonald has already indicated he does not want to be part of Houllier's first-team coaching set up and will instead return to his role as reserve-team manager. The former Liverpool midfielder will check on the fitness of Stephen Ireland (hamstring) before finalising the side to face Stoke. Ireland suffered a hamstring injury during the warm-up to the 1-0 win over Everton a fortnight ago and was replaced by Nigel Reo-Coker.
Midfielder Steve Sidwell could come into contention after playing 90 minutes for the reserves in midweek following his recovery from an Achilles injury. Stoke goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen is hopeful of being able to play against his former club after missing Denmark's Euro 2012 qualifier on Tuesday due to an infection in an elbow problem he sustained against Wolves.
Transfer deadline day signings Eidur Gudjohnsen, Jermaine Pennant and Marc Wilson may have to settle for a place on the bench. But arguably Stoke`s biggest boost is the news that summer signing Kenwyne Jones is fit to start.
The Trinidad and Tobago international striker injured an ankle on the opening day of the season against Wolves and, after missing the home game against Tottenham, he returned at Chelsea but was not 100%.
"The injury came at the best time because having the international break has given me the time to get fit, so I guess my season starts on Monday night," Jones said. "It was possibly the worst thing that could happen to me but I've had to deal with it, it has come and gone.
"Sometimes these things in football happen - at the time I thought it was serious but thankfully it wasn't - and you have to deal with it. "I look forward to every game but, at the same time, it is going to be special.
"I'm not really concentrating on Villa, we have to concentrate on what we are going to do and how we are going to win the game."
Meanwhile, Potters boss Tony Pulis has warned new arrivals Gudjohnsen, Pennant and Wilson they have to pull their weight or they will be spending plenty of time on the sidelines. Pulis has admitted the trio are slightly behind their colleagues in terms of fitness.
They have had the international break to acclimatise to the Stoke way of doing things but the real test will come on match day, with all three expected to be in the squad for the visit of Villa. Pulis, who has always emphasised how strong a team unit he has, demands no less than 100% effort and commitment from his players and that is something the newcomers are getting to grips with.
"We need Eidur, Jermaine and Marc to understand it is all about the team and not individuals and [they have] to throw off the shackles of individuality and join the group - that is what it is all about," said Pulis, whose side have yet to register a point from their first three matches.
"We've been together for a long time and we have been successful because we are a club and have stuck together in difficult times and we will do the same this time around."