Out of all of the top flight games this weekend, there will be several raised eyebrows to see that this fixture occupies the peak Sunday slot. While both of these outfits may have been looking over their shoulders several weeks ago, they now reside in comfortable mid-table positions and relegation no longer appears to be an issue.
There’s no doubt that Aston Villa’s last two results have been one of the main contributing factors to their recent surge up the table. Paul Lambert’s men now find themselves in 10th spot following an accumulation of thirty four points, leaving them nine ahead of the drop zone. The Villains have taken maximum points from both Chelsea and Norwich this month and with the latter result arriving in 4-1 fashion, they’ve also boosted their goal difference considerably as well. Both of those wins occurred at Villa Park and with their home form being one of the club’s biggest weaknesses over the course of the season, this will be something that will have pleased Lambert immensely.
Stoke in contrast only sit below their opponents due to goal difference, with the Potters accumulating the same number of points following their opening thirty games. Again, recent form has aided Mark Hughes’ side significantly and rather than being seen as relegation candidates, the visitors will be casting their eye towards the top half. They have now lost just one game through the course of February and March, in a run that has now lasted seven matches. Considering the fact that they have also recorded victories over Manchester United and Arsenal during this period, it’s clear to see that Hughes’ men are on the rise and finally emulating the Stoke City that we’ve come to know over the last few years.
As for team news, Aston Villa have been boosted at the back with Ryan Bertrand poised to return after missing the last game due to ineligibility. It gets better for the Villains in other areas as well and despite initial fears, Karim El Ahmadi will play following a shin problem. Even though Stoke midfielder Stephen Ireland is now a permanent Potter, Aston Villa did insist on a clause which prevented him from featuring in this fixture when they sold him. Therefore, he won’t’ be playing, while Charlie Adam and Jon Walters will also sit out due to suspension. There might be some positivity for the visitors though, with Oussama Assaidi expected to be fit following a spell on the sidelines.
In terms of a prediction, we are going to sit on the fence and tip a draw. Both of these sides find themselves in very good form at the moment and bearing this in mind, we think the encounter is going to end in a 1-1 scoreline.