TONY PULIS will be looking to guide his side to a record-breaking fourth consecutive Premier League victory when they make the relatively short journey down the M6 this weekend.
The Potters, who have picked up nine points from their last three games against Fulham, Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion, take on a Villa side who have struggled for any consistency during the opening months of the campaign.
Struggling towards the wrong end of the table, Paul Lambert’s outfit will be desperate to get their stuttering season back on track against the in-form Potters, having recorded just three wins from their opening 15 fixtures.
The Villains can boast a mini-revival though, having picked up five points from their last three games against Queens Park Rangers (1-1), Reading (1-0) and Arsenal (0-0).
A win for Tony Pulis’ side would culminate in a fourth straight Premier League success, a feat which hasn't yet been achieved since winning promotion back into the top-flight in 2008.
ASTON VILLA FACT-FILE
Founded: March 1874
Nickname: The Villa, Villains
Stadium: Villa Park
Manager: Paul Lambert
* To date Aston Villa have spent 101 seasons in the top-flight, the only club to have spent longer in the top-flight is Everton with 108 seasons.
* As a result, Aston Villa versus Everton is the most played fixture in English top-flight football.
* Aston Villa are one of an elite group of seven clubs that has played in every Premiership season, with the other six being: Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.
* The Club are fifth in the All-time FA Premier League table and have the fourth highest total of major honours won by an English club with 20 wins.
League: 26 Stoke Wins; 25 Draws; 45 Aston Villa Wins
FA Cup: 3 Stoke Wins; 4 Draws; 3 Aston Villa Wins
League Cup: 1 Stoke Win; 0 Draws; 0 Aston Villa Wins
The last five encounters:
09/04/12 Aston Villa 1-1 Stoke City
26/12/12 Stoke City 0-0 Aston Villa
23/04/11 Aston Villa 1-1 Stoke City
13/09/10 Stoke City 2-1 Aston Villa
13/03/10 Stoke City 0-0 Aston Villa
FROM THE HORSES MOUTH
(On winning at Villa for four consecutive) “It would be great, especially as our away record’s not been great this season, nor in previous seasons. Hopefully we can get a victory on Saturday and keep this run going, but it’s another difficult game and a difficult place to go. They've struggled at the start but seem to be coming together. They've got a lot of young players but also some really good players in there.
“It just shows how difficult the Premier League is. I don’t think they've played that badly, it’s just a case of a few bad results and you get stuck down at the bottom. In recent weeks they've been a bit better, and they've still got some quality players.”
“Everybody knows what the playing style is with Stoke. Some of the lads in our dressing room might not be the oldest or the biggest but they’re tough boys and we’ll get stuck in. We’ll find a way to beat them and that will be by playing our style, on the ground, playing around them. I think we've got good enough players to do that and hopefully we can this weekend."
PETER CROUCH is hoping to return to the side at Villa Park after having a mouth-brace fitted by a London specialist in the build-up to the game.
The Club’s leading goal-scorer was forced to miss last weekend’s 1-0 win against West Bromwich Albion after having two teeth knocked out by the flailing arm of Newcastle United defender Fabricio Colocinni last month.
However, he is hoping to be available for selection on Saturday, but whether he is handed a start remains to be seen following Kenwyne Jones’ impressive performance at the Hawthorns.
Meanwhile, Charlie Adam will be forced to miss his first game as a Potter having incurred a one-match suspension after picking up his fifth caution of the campaign last weekend.
His spot in the starting line-up is expected to go to Dean Whitehead, after he scored and impressed after stepping off the bench against the Baggies.
Cameron Jerome should shrug off a minor ankle problem which denied him of a spot on the bench last time out, whilst Michael Owen, Rory Delap and Marc Wilson are all missing.
MATCH TO REMEMBER
ASK many people associated with Stoke City to name their most memorable game . . . and a fair few will point to the meeting with Aston Villa in August 2008.
The first Premier League action at the Britannia Stadium would prove to be an unforgettable experience as the Potters came from behind to snatch the points with two late goals to spark scenes of wild celebrations.
A victory had seemed in prospect when Liam Lawrence put the hosts ahead from the penalty spot on the half hour mark, but Villa came storming back with goals from John Carew and central defender Martin Laursen in the second half.
In a grandstand finish to the game, however, Ricardo Fuller produced a moment of magic to haul Stoke back on level terms with an individual effort ten minutes from time and then Mamady Sidibe grabbed the winner with virtually seconds left on the clock.
THE MEN IN CHARGE
REFEREE: R East
ASSISTANTS: G Beswick & H Lennard
FOURTH OFFICIAL: C Foy
ROGER EAST will officiate this weekend’s encounter . . . having most recently taken charge of Cardiff’s 1-0 victory against Huddersfield Town last Saturday.
The Wiltshire based official has distributed 64 yellow cards and three reds in his 22 matches this season.
FANCY A FLUTTER?
ALL odds shown are the most recent with official Club betting partner bet365 - For the most up to date odds click HERE
Stoke to win - 10/11
Draw - 12/5
Aston Villa to win - 16/5