Aston Villa-Stoke City Preview

RYAN WILLOX (STATS Football Writer)
The Associated Press

Stoke City host Aston Villa at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday as both sides try to bounce back from a home loss to Manchester United.

Villa fell 3-0 to the champions in the Premier League last weekend, while Stoke exited the League Cup on Wednesday after suffering a 2-0 loss in a weather-affected match at the Britannia.

The Potters had been attempting to reach a first semi-final since they won the League Cup competition in 1972.

"I thought we did okay up until a point but I've no complaints about the scoreline," Hughes told Stoke's official club website. "The conditions were far from ideal in the first half, all the elements were against us. I thought we were good in the first half, kept our shape and didn't allow United any real opportunities. We looked nice and solid and we were causing them a problem going the other way as well.

"We thought we were going to get the benefit of the elements in the second half but unfortunately, the storm blew itself out and it became quite a benign evening. That's a little bit of luck that went against us."

Stoke (4-6-6) will seek to take advantage of home comforts against Villa having secured 13 of their 18 points at the Britannia this season. The Potters have been beaten just once in eight home league matches, a 1-0 reverse against Norwich in September.

While the Potters are without a win in five games against Saturday's opponents, six of the ten meetings since Stoke were promoted to the Premier League in 2008 have ended in draws including four of those last five.Aston Villa (5-4-7) manager Paul Lambert has a key absence to contend with ahead of the match as club captain Ron Vlaar remains a major injury doubt.

"Ron is still struggling at the minute," Lambert told the official club website. "We have to try and get that calf cleared up because he was excellent for us just before he went out injured.

"To be fair he is doing better now, step by step. We've just got to watch that and we'll wait and see. There are one or two other little knocks that are giving us a bit of concern but we've still got tomorrow so we'll see how everybody is."

Gabby Agbonlahor misses out because of yellow card accumulation although Fabian Delph returns to the squad after serving a one-match ban. Midfielder Chris Herd could also feature as part of the squad.

Four of the side's last 12 meetings have ended in the dreaded 0-0 draw and there is some other statistical evidence to suggest this one might not be for the purist or the faint of heart.

No team has been booked more often than Stoke this season (36). Aston Villa are level with Manchester United in second place with 33 bookings so far.

Stoke lead with the Premier League with 215 fouls committed, while Villa lie in third behind Southampton with 205.

Villa took four points off the Potters last season, winning 3-1 at the Britannia in April. Gabby Agbonlahor put the Villans up after just nine minutes but Michael Kightly scored 10 minutes from time to pull Stoke level. Villa won the match with a quick-fire late double from Matthew Lowton in the 87th minute and a 91st minute insurance goal from Christian Benteke. The sides played out a drab 0-0 draw at Villa Park in last December.

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