By Lewis Rymond
Saturday’s clash of the Midlands sees two of the Premier League’s lowest scoring teams face each other at Villa Park, where draws have been customary in recent years. However, with Lambert’s new-look Villa side, things aren’t always so predictable…
Match Difficulty Grade
B Before a tough set of fixtures over the Christmas period, this is Villa’s chance to show a statement of intent and take a point or three from one of the league’s most resilient sides. It won’t be easy though, and if last season’s fixture will be anything to go by, chances will be few and far between. Stubborn Stoke will be coming into this match with bags of confidence too…
Form is Temporary
Current form table (last six games) – Villa – 10th / Stoke – 2nd
Aston Villa: Last five matches at home: W 1, D 3, L 1.
Stoke: Last five matches away: W 1, D 2, L 2.
Since Stoke have been back in the top division the games at Villa Park have finished: D, D, W, D,
Facts to Sweep Under the Carpet
…and who can blame them? Stoke have taken 13 points from the last 15 available and haven’t lost since the start of last month. Their defensive expertise has allowed them to keep an impressive seven clean sheets this season, second only to Mancini’s champions. Stoke have only let 12 goals past them, which is incidentally also the (rather low) number of goals Villa have managed all season. While Stoke have gained their highest points total at this stage of the season since 1976/77, Villa’s tally is the lowest since 1994/95. The last time Villa beat Stoke was in December 2009.
What We Pray the Football Gods Will Provide
How about a match to break the deadlock? In last season’s Stoke matches we saw a crackerjack of a strike from Andreas Weimann that hinted at the magic, that has the potential to take Stoke by surprise. A win at home to Tony Pulis’ squad would make it three games unbeaten at Villa Park and would lay encouraging foundations for the tricky matches ahead. For a while now we have predicted that Holman wasn’t far from finding his shooting boots, and after last weekend’s lovely strike then he could have the chance to add to his tally on Saturday. If Charles N’Zogbia is back in training, he could also cause problems for the defiant defence of Stoke. Hopefully, we will continue to see a squad that are starting to gel and play closer to what Lambert has in mind.
Why Villa are Totally 100% Going to Win
While much can be said about Villa’s difficulties where scoring is concerned, we can’t overlook the fact that it seems to be getting equally difficult to score AGAINST Villa. If the youthful defensive lineup of Lambert’s Lions continue to perform so valiantly, Villa could well have chances on the counter and get past the sturdy Stoke defence. Worries of away form inconsistency might be on the forefront of the Stoke mindset too; when they beat West Brom away last Saturday it was the first time they had taken three points on their travels since last January. Much has been said of the impressive midfield capabilities of Ashley Westwood recently, and he could give his opposite numbers a run for the money – especially given that they will be without Charlie Adam, Rory Delap and Marc Wilson. Also, it looks like we’re better at defending set pieces now, too, and better at scoring from them! Benteke will be up for continuing his home goal tally, and his height will prove a challenge for even the most gigantic of Stoke defenders. At home, Villa have began to look like a side who can cope with the pressures of ‘six-pointer’ clashes, and with this confidence evident in home form this game be there for the taking! UTV
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