Having gone on a run of six points from eight games, Aston Villa slipped to just five points above the drop zone but a win over Stoke on Easter Monday would take the Villains nine points clear of the drop with six games to play.
Stoke, having already secured their top flight status for next season, have much less to play for. They currently lie in 11th place and a win would push them up to eighth in the table.
The game is of much more importance to Villa however who have won just one of their last nine fixtures and on 34 points, they are certainly not yet safe from relegation.
Having been pegged by Liverpool through a late equalizer from Luis Suarez; Villa manager Alex McLeish believes the future is bright at the club having started six players aged 23 or under for the fixture at Anfield:
“They (the young players at Villa) really have high opinions of themselves without being too cocky,” admitted McLeish.
The Scot also spoke of how the players garnered great confidence from their display against Liverpool, a fixture they will have felt unlucky not to win: “Every one of them is ready to go again. They took great confidence from the display at Anfield” he added.
Stoke play their 51st match of a punishing campaign on Monday knowing they will have to be particularly wary of 6’8″ giant striker Peter Crouch, who on Saturday scored his 13th goal of the campaign to confirm Stoke’s Premier League survival with seven games to play by earning a 2-1 home win over Wolves. Manager Tony Pulis looks now to push on and secure a top ten finish for the Potters; a feat which the club has not previously managed in the Premier League.
Midfielder Gary Gardner and striker Andreas Weimann both look set to start for Villa having not started against Liverpool through illness and (ankle) injury respectively.
Meanwhile, Stoke manager Pulis is likely to make changes for his side’s second game in 48 hours. The Welshman has indicated that he will use a number of players who did not feature in the weekend win over Wolves. Among them is likely to be defender Andy Wilkinson who was ruled out of that fixture because he was nursing a groin strain.
Possible starting XIs:
Aston Villa: Given, Hutton, Baker, Collins, Warnock, Albrighton, Herd, Gardner, Ireland, Agbonlahor, Weimann.
Stoke: Begovic, Wilkinson, Shawcross, Huth, Wilson, Pennant, Whitehead, Whelan, Jerome, Crouch, Walters.