Monday 12th September
Opponent: Stoke City
Venue: Britannia Stadium
Kick Off: 20:00
Aston Villa will come up against a Stoke side that is without a point in their first 3 games this Monday night. Despite Gerard Houllier agreeing to become the new manager it is believed that he may not take official charge until as late as the derny with Wolves, Sunday 26th September. Therefore Kevin MacDonald will take charge of his 4th Premier League fixture and maybe in place for a further two or three after that.
The omens are not good for the away side who last won at Stoke in August 1984. Villa will be looking to improve on a poor record against the Potter’s winning just once in the 6 encounters since Stoke joined the top flight. The home side will be looking to avoid a new record of their own since defeat to Villa would mean that they would have lost their opening 4 games, last achieved back in 1906.
Home team news sees potential debuts for the clubs three deadline day signings. Marc Wilson, Eidur Gudjohnsen and Jermaine Pennant are all vying for a starting place with the latter hoping to prove himself after a nightmare spell at Zaragoza. The former Birmingham winger expects a hostile reception on his return to the Premier League but is hoping to earn a permanent £2m switch having joined the club on loan till January. Gudjohnsen may miss out with concerns over his weight meaning he could be restricted to a cameo with striker Kenwyne Jones expected fit for the tie.
Former Villa keeper Thomas Sorensen may miss out after sitting out of international duty due to an infection in his elbow. This could mean that just 3 weeks after apparently going on strike at the club, Stoke No.2 Asmir Begovic may start the tie after being linked with Chelsea over the summer.
MacDonald could well have a full squad to play with pending late fitness tests for Stephen Ireland and John Carew. Ireland hobbled out of the warm up with a hamstring complaint prior to Villa’s 1-0 win over Everton but is expected to at least make a substitutes appearance. Carew limped out of Norway’s 1-0 victory early on in midweek and is also a doubt with a knee problem.
Returning midfielder Steve Sidwell played 90 minutes for the reserves earlier in the week and is available for selection but may have to happy with a place on the bench. James Collins is expected to be fit after sustaining a nasty facial injury during Wales’ 1-0 defeat to Montenegro. The defender was taken to hospital but early fears of a broken nose or fractured cheekbone were laid to rest though he suffered a black eye.
MacDonald may look to play a target man against an unforgiving Stoke defence alongside the fit again Agbonlahor. This may mean that if Carew is deemed not to be ready that Heskey will get his chance after being dropped in the Everton game. Young winger Marc Albrighton may be set to start once more after impressing on under-21 duty, netting against Lithuania.
Possible Starting XI: (4-4-2) Friedel; L Young, Dunne, Collins, Warnock; Albrighton, Petrov, Ireland, A Young; Agbonlahor, Heskey
Martin’s predicted scoreline: Stoke 1 – 1 Aston Villa
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