Stoke City-Aston Villa Preview
Both Aston Villa and Stoke City will be looking to put one foot into the 2014-15 Premier League season with a win this weekend.
They have each picked up seven points from their last four league games to pull nine points clear of the relegation zone and to the verge of unlikely top-half finishes.
Villa (9-7-13) followed up an impressive 4-1 victory over Norwich with a shock 1-0 win over league-leading Chelsea last weekend, and midfielder Andreas Weimann believes that the win over the Stamford Bridge outfit will give his squad the confidence they need to finish the campaign in style.
"We’re all so confident at the moment," said Weimann. "The whole team played really well against Chelsea, every single player performed on the night. We feel great after that win. I thought we thoroughly deserved it too. We defended well, we fought hard in midfield, we created chances and we scored the only goal. We had a plan and we had our tactics for the game. We got them right.
"The dressing room was so noisy after the match. There were a lot of pats on the back and high fives and the music was on pretty loud. It was a great place to be. It’s like that after every win but there was even more joy in there because we beat one of the best teams – the side at the top of the table. They are the moments you get into football for – they make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up."
Mark Hughes’ Stoke City (8-10-12) have quietly moved away from trouble in 2014, losing just one of their last seven league games to put Premier League safety within touching distance. Manchester City have been the only team to defeat the Potters since the start of February, with wins over Arsenal and Manchester United coming in that run.
"We are getting better all the time, and I think our performances and results recently show that," said defender Geoff Cameron in an interview with the club’s official website. "We always knew that this season was going to be one of ups and downs, but we are getting towards where we want to be now and we are starting to play the style of football that we feel will move us forward.
"Taking seven points from the last three games has been a huge boost for us and it has given us a lot of confidence to go on and finish the season as high as we can, hopefully 10th, but even eighth or ninth isn’t out of the equation yet."
Aston Villa have injury doubts over Jores Okore (knee) and Charles N’Zogbia (calf), while Libor Kozak remains out with a broken leg. Stoke have concerns over the fitness of Oussama Assaidi (knee) and Erik Pieters (ankle), but Robert Huth (knee) is out.
Stoke won 2-1 when these teams met at the Britannia back in December, with Charlie Adam and Peter Crouch scoring the goals for the Potters with their team’s only two efforts on target in the match.
Six of the total 11 top-flight meetings between these clubs have ended in draws, with Stoke’s win earlier in the season edging them ahead in the head-to-head with three victories to Villa’s two.
Goals have been at a premium in games between these two, with Villa outscoring Stoke 8-7 in their last nine league meetings.