An in-form Stoke City will hope to take their best football to Villa Park, where they take on struggling Aston Villa on Saturday.
Stoke have not tasted defeat in their past five matches, winning four of them and drawing at West Ham, in a surprising upward form spiral for Tony Pulis’ men.
The Britannia Stadium outfit had previously won one of their first 10 Premier League games this season, and in that run they also lost to third-tier club Swindon Town in the League Cup.
However, since a narrow 1-0 win over stragglers QPR, Pulis’ men have continued to get the job done, posting wins over Fulham, Newcastle and West Bromwich Albion.
And they are in prime position to capitalise on their form as Villa – despite being unbeaten in three games – have struggled this season, and are just two points from the drop.
Draws with Arsenal and QPR either side of a win over Reading have handed Paul Lambert’s men five valuable points recently, but with trips to Liverpool and Chelsea prior to Christmas, and their hosting of Tottenham on Boxing Day, the Birmingham side will need to be switched on when Stoke visit.
And their lengthy injury list is of no help, with no less than eight players sidelined by ailments, including captain Ron Vlaar (calf), Gary Gardner (knee), Joe Bennett (knee), Chris Herd (knee) and Charles N’Zogbia (knee).
In contrast, Stoke’s injury list is a minor blip on the radar, and they will get back strikers Peter Crouch (mouth) and Michael Owen (hamstring).
Charlie Adam will serve a one-match suspension, while throw-in specialist Rory Delap (hernia) and Marc Wilson (broken leg) remain sidelined.
Recent history suggests this match-up does not offer much for the neutrals, as the past three meetings between the two sides have ended in draws.
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