Aston Villa take on Stoke City on Saturday in the Barclays Premier League as new manager Tim Sherwood takes charge of his first league game for the hosts. Stoke will be looking to bounce back from the 4-1 defeat to Blackburn last weekend, that saw them crash out of the FA Cup.
Villa have been poor all season and find themelves in 18th place having only scored 12 goals in 25 games, by far the lowest total in the league. After a fairly strong start manager Paul Lambert was handed a new long term contract, which down the drain as recently as two weeks ago, when he was sacked. In came the fresh faced young Englishman that is Tim Sherwood. Sherwood watched his side, albeit from the stands, record a 2-1 victory against Bournemouth last week in the FA Cup. Goals from Leandro Bacuna and Scott Sinclair ensured progression to the quarter finals, giving Sherwood something to look forward to aside from the looming relegation battle that awaits.
For Stoke, it's been a consistent if not amazing season as the Potters find themselves in 10th place. The new attacking brand of play under Mark Hughes was only extended with the signing of Spanish playmaker Bojan, who lit up the league with some dazzling displays before an unfortunate injury brought his season to a halt. Despite this it is very possible that Stoke can finish the season by achieving their highest ever Premier League position. To do this, they would need to climb ahead of Swansea and West Ham, with the latter being five points ahead of them in eighth.
For Aston Villa, Gabriel Agbonlahor is set to return from a hamstring injury and could partner Christian Benteke in a two man strikeforce. Carlos Gil should be fit to play despite a groin problem whilst Phillipe Senderos and Nathan Baker both face late fitness tests. Libor Kozak (broken leg) and Chris Herd (achilles) both remain sidelined with long term injuries.
The visitors are suffering something of an injury crisis at the moment as defender Marc Munesia this week joined the injury list with a hamstring strain that could keep him out for as much as six weeks. Ryan Shawcross (groin), Marc Wilson (groin), Stephen Ireland (hamstring), Bojan (ACL), Peter Odemwingie (ACL), Jonathan Walters (knee) and Erik Pieters (hernia) are all still out. Even more bad news for Stoke comes through Geoff Cameron's suspension, the midfielder is unavailable after his red card in the Blackburn defeat.
Tim Sherwood has spoke about how he wants his Aston Villa side to play with more 'swagger' in his pre match press conference. "A team near the bottom of the league is usually suffering with a lack of confidence. But I am sure that we have enough quality to get that through a win. If you're confident you walk with your head up and you're more alert. We need that swagger back and we need the fans onside to help that. I want them [the players] to get on the front foot- but also get back with an eqal amount of passion and desire."
In the Stoke camp, midfielder Glen Whelan has told the media he believes that the Stoke fans will stay loyal despite anger over the FA Cup humiliation at Blackburn. "Ever since I've been here they [the fans] have supported us through thick and thin, and I'm sure they will be no different on Saturday. Hopefully they will get a different Stoke City team compared to last Saturday, the one that's shown up for most of the season. Villa Park is one of the closest grounds for our fans to get to and they always turn up in numbers. They are a proud and loyal bunch and one result isn't going to change that."
When they last met:
Aston Villa made a strong start to the season with a surprising 1-0 win at the Brittania Stadium on the opening day. A powerful Andreas Weimann shot early on in the second half was enough to win the match, handing Villa their first away win since December 2014 and send Stoke fans home dejected.
Head to head:
Played-101, Villa wins-47, Stoke wins-28, drawn-26.
Last five games:
The two sides went 20 years without facing eachother before Stoke's promotion in 2007.
The highest scoring game between the two sides was a 6-2 win for Aston Villa in 1951.
Aston Villa have scored the lowest amount of goals out of all 92 clubs in the English Football League this season.
At this stage last season, Villa were one point and two places ahead of Stoke. This season, Stoke are 11 points and eight places ahead.