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Preview: Aston Villa vs. Stoke City

Sports Mole previews all of the Premier League action as Aston Villa host fellow strugglers Stoke City at Villa Park.

Aston Villa welcome travelling Stoke City to Villa Park in the Premier League on Saturday as Tim Sherwood's men look to turn around a difficult start to the new campaign.

Stoke, meanwhile, were finally able to register their first win of the season last weekend and will be seeking to put together back-to-back victories to lift them away from the foot of the table.


Aston Villa

Micah Richards of Aston Villa celebrates victory after the Capital One Cup third round match between Aston Villa and Birmingham City at Villa Park on September 22, 2015 in Birmingham, England.© Getty Images

Villa come into the game off the back of some torrid form in the Premier League that has seen Sherwood's charges without a win since the opening day of the season.

Since that slender victory over Bournemouth, the Villans have lost five of their six league encounters, grabbing just a solitary point when facing fellow strugglers Sunderland at home a few weeks back.

Goals have not been a major problem for the club given that they have scored in all but two Premier League games, but they have conceded 12 goals in seven games and kept just one clean sheet.

Villa fans will be frustrated by their poor start, although they have seen some promising performances from new signings Rudy Gestede and Jordan Amavi, and they will be hopeful of climbing the table once Sherwood is able to solve his troublesome organisational problems.

The Midlands club hold 18th spot in the league table and their coach will be looking to Stoke as the most likely three points on offer given the approaching games over the coming weeks. As it stands, Villa will have to face the likes of Chelsea, Everton and Manchester City in some of their looming contests.

What will be encouraging for Villa was the manner in which they sought to fight back in their last defeat against Liverpool, and they may well have got something from that away clash had they not been undone by a masterful return from Daniel Sturridge.

Recent form: LLDLLL


Stoke City

Jonathan Walters (2nd R) of Stoke City celebrates scoring his team's first goal with his team mates during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and A.F.C. Bournemouth at Britannia Stadium on September 26, 2015© Getty Images

Stoke travel to Birmingham having finally managed to pick up their first win of the domestic term against travelling Bournemouth last weekend.

That 2-1 victory has slightly lifted some pressure on Mark Hughes, given that they had only picked up three points from six previous games in the English top flight.

The win provided glimpses of how this Stoke side could potentially start to finally link up going forward and solve their main issue of a lack of attacking incision that has plagued them in the early part of the season.

Hughes has certainly made the kind of signings that should produce a more inviting feast for the eyes, but up until that Bournemouth game things had rarely managed to materialise in the final third. That said, Mame Biram Diouf's late winner suggests that the players at the club are far from giving up on getting their season moving in a positive fashion.

Looking ahead to their next three fixtures, City come up against Swansea City, Watford and Newcastle United, and they may well feel that gaining three points away at Villa could push them on towards a positive run of picking up further points in the coming weeks.

Stoke fans will be sweating on whether Xherdan Shaqiri has made it through in time to travel to Villa after his injury against Bournemouth, but if he does make it the visitors will be confident of picking their way through a defence that has found things tough going of late.

Recent form: DDLLDW


Team News

Xherdan Shaqiri of Stoke City in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Stoke City at Carrow Road on August 22, 2015© Getty Images

Defender Adama Traore could come back into Sherwood's team, while frontman Gabby Agbonlahor is also pushing hard to make a comeback from injury in time to start.

Sherwood has plenty of questions to answer at the back, and he may decide to leave Joleon Lescott out given that the club has conceded seven goals in the three games that he has started.

Ciaran Clark appears to be the strongest option to partner Micah Richards in the centre of defence, while Alan Hutton will be expecting to remain at right-back.

Hughes has revealed that he plans to put Shaqiri through a late fitness test ahead of the game so it is still unclear as to whether the Swiss international will be ready in time to start.

Philipp Wollscheid has impressed lately and he could retain his place at the back at the expense of a recovering Marc Wilson.

After his match-winning goal last time out, Diouf will be hoping that he has done enough to earn a starting place as the visiting side's sole striker on Saturday.

Aston Villa possible starting lineup:
Guzan; Amavi, Clark, Richards, Hutton; Gueye, Sanchez, Westwood; Grealish, Gestede, Traore

Stoke City possible starting lineup:
Butland; Pieters, Wollscheid, Cameron, Johnson; Adam, Whelan; Arnautovic, Bojan, Walters; Diouf


Head To Head

The two clubs last met in the Premier League back in February, when Stoke were able to snatch a 2-1 win away at Villa Park. A little earlier in the season, Villa won by a single goal when they made the trip to the Britannia. Stoke just about shade things when observing the clubs' last six games against each other, as the Potters have won three, drawn one and lost two.


Video Preview

Hit play below to see what the Sports Mole Sofa had to say about this encounter:



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We say: Aston Villa 1-1 Stoke City

Villa are without a win since the opening day of the Premier League season, but they showed some signs of courage and attacking quality when they sought to come back against Liverpool last time out. However, they will be coming up against a Stoke side that finally got a win under their belt last weekend. Hughes and his men are undefeated in their last five away matches against Villa in all competitions and will be hoping to earn at least a point on the road.



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Brendan Rodgers manager of Liverpool gives direction from the touchline during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Norwich City at Anfield on September 20, 2015
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