STOKE CITY captain Ryan Shawcross has warned his team-mates not to under-estimate Aston Villa . . . as they set off in search of a record-equalling fourth consecutive Barclays Premier League victory this weekend.
Shawcross is adamant Aston Villa will provide the in-form Potters with just as stern a test as any other side when they lock horns on Saturday afternoon, even though they have struggled in the early part of the season.
"It's going great at the moment, but we all know how difficult the Premier League is and you can easily go a couple of games where you don't pick up a point, so there is no way we will go to Villa and expect anything other than a very tough game," he said.
"We're not stupid, we know how hard it will be for us. They have gone three games without losing, so they will have some confidence, and they will look at the game against us as one in which they will feel they are capable of winning.
"It would be great to get the win there though, especially as our away record hasn't been great since winning promotion to the Premier League."
He added: "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."
City will be hoping to match the four successive Premier League victories which they achieved at this same stage last season when they visit Villa Park.
But Shawcross believes Aston Villa can draw parallels with the Potters, having been forced to rue a lack of lady-luck during the opening 15 games.
"It just shows how difficult the Premier League is," he said. "I don't think they've played that badly. It's just a case of the ball not hitting the back of the net, conceding one at the other end and then all of a sudden you get sucked in to things down at the bottom.
"In recent weeks, they've picked up one or two better results, and they will be hoping to go on and do what we have done; put together a string of victories. It soon changes things, and they will hope to get the ball rolling against us on Saturday."