Stoke look to balance priorities

The mini-revival being enjoyed by Aston Villa of late was kick-started by their 2-2 draw against Everton at Goodison Park, and the following back-to-back wins achieved against first Newcastle and then West Ham have seen the Villains launch themselves away from the relegation zone and up the top half of the Premier League table, while Stoke have suffered quite the opposite.

Having now taken seven points from their last nine games, Gerard Houllier’s side will be hotly expected to continue this fine run this weekend when they take on Stoke City at home. Villa have been far better playing at Villa Park then they have on the road winning nearly half of their league fixtures in front of their own fans – a statistic which could prove telling this weekend, especially when married up with Stoke’s own abysmal away record in the top-flight. Those looking to bet Premier League money should bear this in mind.

Tony Pulis’ side have avoided defeat just four times from the sixteen fixtures they have played away from the Britannia Stadium so far this term and as a result, many bookies are currently offering odds in the region of 7/2 that the Potters will claim all three points when they meet on Saturday.

There will be no doubt that Pulis faces a fairly major task in keeping his players fully focused on their league campaign when they have the FA Cup Final against Manchester City rearing its exciting head. While it would seem unlikely that Stoke could end up in the relegation mix come the end of the season, Pulis will be aware that this season has been far from ordinary and it could well come to that. This means they shouldn’t let themselves get distracted by things like their chances in the FA Cup betting.

While the end of season in the league will still be important for Stoke the club will be confident of doing the business at Wembley on May 14th in what they will feel is definitely a winnable game. Not since 1971/72 have the club lifted a major piece of silverware and Pulis be licking his lips at the prospect of getting his hands on FA Cup.

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