Tim Sherwood will take charge of his first march as Aston Villa manager on Saturday, and it’s crucial that he starts with a positive result. Villa are currently 18th in the Premier League, and with only thirteen games left, a win could lift them above fellow strugglers QPR, Hull and Sunderland. A run of form between now and the end of the season could make the difference between who stays up, and who is demoted to the Championship.
Stoke are currently in tenth place, and a win against Villa could push them closer to the European places in the league table. Mark Hughes’ side have been inconsistent of late, with two wins, two draws and two defeats in their last six matches, though Villa’s recent form in front of goal won’t strike too much fear into the hearts of Stoke’s defenders.
Nathan Baker and Phillipe Senderos both face late fitness tests for Villa, while there are also doubts over attacking options Carles Gil and Gabby Agbonlahor. Ron Vlaar should continue at the back, while goalkeeper Shay Given could be given the nod over Brad Guzan. Tim Sherwood could make changes depending on how his new players have responded in training, but Christian Benteke is expected to start.
Stoke seem to be experiencing a full-scale crisis of personnel. Peter Odemwingie, Steven Ireland, Bojan and Marc Muniesa are all missing through injury, while Geoff Cameron will miss the match after being sent off in the FA Cup defeat against Blackburn. There are also major doubts over Eric Pieters, Marc Wilson, Ryan Shawcross and Jonathon Walters. A long awaited debut for summer signing Dionatan Teixeira could be on the cards as Mark Hughes tries to cobble together a competitive side.
Villa have lost their last five matches in the Premier League.
In these matches, they were losing at both half-time, and full-time.
Villa have also failed to score in seven of their last eight Premier League matches. Good luck Tim.
Injured Jonathon Walters has the most Premier League goals for Stoke with seven. Peter Crouch is just one behind on six.
Stoke have picked up seven points from a possible twelve in their last four matches.
Stoke have won two, drawn two and lost two of their last six matches against Aston Villa.
It’s no secret that Villa are the lowest scorers in the Premier League so far this season with just twelve goals, and as a result, Tim Sherwood will be looking to revitalise big Belgian Christian Benteke. The striker has scored just two goals in thirteen starts this season, added to one goal in three appearances in the FA Cup. It’s vital to Villa’s survival chances that Benteke begins showing a glimmer of the form he showed last season, when rumours of a big money move to one of Europe’s elite teams were abundant. Revitalised under a new manager, don’t rule out a few Benteke goals between now and the end of the season.
It’s safe to say that Marko Arnautovic can be a little hit and miss. Two assists from the wings in twelve starts for Stoke certainly isn’t anything to write home about. The goals column is even worse, with a blank space registered against it. The frustrating thing is that Arnautovic does possess real quality. His cross for Peter Crouch’s goal against Man City was sublime, as was the celebration. In the absence of some of Stoke’s key players, this could be Arnautovic’s opportunity to show the Premier League exactly what he is capable of.
Aston Villa (4-3-3)
Given, Hutton, Vlaar, Clark, Cissokho, Cleverley, Westwood, Delph, Gil, Benteke, Sinclair.
Begovic, Bardsley, Wollscheid, Wilson, Pieters, N’Zonzi, Whelan, Arnautovic, Diouf, Moses, Crouch.
Buoyed by their new manager, I expect a nervy Villa win. 1-0 to the home team, Benteke to score.