Two of the Midland based teams clash on Sunday with Stoke City travelling to Birmingham to face Aston Villa. Both teams come into the game in form and on the back of morale boosting home wins last weekend. Recent results have meant both teams have clawed away from the relegation dogfight, for now. However, Villa nor Stoke will want to rest on their laurels and a win here will give either team more comfort going into the part of the season.
Villa will be buoyed by their shock win against Chelsea last week. It was a result that Paul Lambert’s team deserved and Fabian Delph’s winner capped off a great day for the side. That result propelled Villa into 10th in the table, a position which was far from expected considering a poor February in which they gained only one point from four games. However, two wins from two have given the players and the fans a lift and will hope it make it three on the bounce this weekend.
West Ham took an early lead against The Potters last Saturday, only to be pegged back by a resilient Stoke side who eventually came out victorious with a 3-1 score line. A goal from Arnautovic and a double from Odemwingie, the second of which was a thunderbolt gave Stoke their second win in three games and means that they have only tasted defeat once in their last seven fixtures. They finished the weekend in 11th place , just behind Aston Villa on goal difference and a win will take Mark Hughes men above Villa and into the top half of the table.
In the previous meeting between the two sides this season at the Britannia, Stoke ran out 2-1 winners with gaols from Adam and Crouch either side of a Kozak striker helped their side to all three points.
Karim El Ahmadi is likely to keep his place in the Aston Villa after the shocking challenge from Chelsea’s Ramires in which the Moroccan was lucky to escape without serious injury. Gabriel Agbonlahor is doubtful however after picking up a knock in the same game. Kozak and N’Zogbia are long term absentees.
The big blow for Stoke City is that experienced centre-back Robert Huth will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. Erik Pieters limped out of last weekend’s win against West Ham and is doubtful for this game. Oussama Assaidi will face a late fitness test to determine whether he is fit enough to play any part while Jonathan Walters and Charlie Adam will both miss the game due to suspension.
- Aston Villa have won only one of their last eight Premier League games against Stoke City.
- Stoke have scored fewer headed goals than any other team in the Premier League (2).
- Stoke have lost just one of their last seven Premier League matches (W3 D3 L1), with the loss being away at Man City.
- Four of the five Premier League games between these two sides at Villa Park have ended as draws.
- Aston Villa have not won three Premier League home games in a row since October 2007.
- Only Stoke City (398) have committed more fouls than Aston Villa (379) in the Premier League this season.
- Stoke have already completed more passes this season (8674) than in any of their previous five Premier League campaigns.
Aston Villa: Fabian Delph
After scoring the winner in a huge win against Chelsea, Fabian Delph will into the brimming with confidence. A key figure in Aston Villa’s midfield since his arrival from Leeds United in 2009. This season however will be noted as Delph’s most influential to date with crucial performances for his side this season, including last weekend. With an impressive passing accuracy rate of 83% from 1157 attempts, Delph is perfect as Villa’s man in the middle, as his ability to keep his team ticking in terms of their flow is vital for Villa’s overall play. Having intercepted the ball 51 times this season, we know that Delph is a ball winner and is able to break up play to set up counter attacks, a well sort after asset in the modern game. As a defensive midfielder, Delph’s tackling numbers a fantastic with 74% of his 80 tackles successful, with a tackle every 29 minutes.
Stoke City: Peter Odemwingie
Just like Delph, Peter Odemwingie will have a lot of confidence going into this match after scoring two goals to help his side pick up a 3-1 win against West Ham. Since his move to The Potters in January he has already scored three goals as opposed to his single goal when at Cardiff earlier this season. His conversion rate has also significantly improved since his move, managing a chance conversion rate of 43%, compared to the 8% he had while at Cardiff. His shooting accuracy has also improved with 71% of his shots for Stoke being on target but at a rate of one shot every 87 minutes which he will feel can be improved greatly. Odemwingie will be vital in supporting lone striker Peter Crouch, with opportunities to meet Crouch’s layoffs a real possibility
I can see goals in this game with the mid field battles being crucial. With similar formations and players in terms of positioning, it may turn out to be each other’s weakness. Both teams go into the game with wins under their belt but I feel that Villa will edge this contest, just.