Stoke may have been beaten by Man City last time out but four wins from their last five league games is a great record to take into the festive fixtures. Stoke have proved this season that they can handle a blip and Tony Pulis will be hoping to push on up the table in the second half of the season. Aston Villa are still struggling for results under Alex McLeish with their only three points in six games coming agaisnt strugglers Bolton. Villa have a tough run of fixtures at the moment and the nine point gap between themselves and relegation could be a lot smaller in a few weeks time.
Stoke striker Peter Crouch missed the loss at Man City due to illness but Tony Pulis is expecting his summer signing to play in this match and should he score it will be his 100th career league goal. Ryan Shawcross will return from suspension after serving a one match ban for five yellow cards but Glenn Whelan is expected to miss out because of a calf injury.
Darren Bent has missed the last two games for Aston Villa because of a thigh injury but should make his return to action in this match. Emile Heskey and James Collins should both overcome achilles and knee injuries respectively whilst Stephen Ireland is expected to recover from a thigh strain but Aston Villa will definitely be without Alan Hutton who serves a one match ban following his sending off against Arsenal.
Most people are aware of how strong Stoke can be at home but the contrast between their home record and away record in recent seasons is still quite shocking, according to the Stoke ValueChecker Wikis last season Stoke gained 34 of their 45 points at home, the season before it was 35 out of 45. Once again Stoke are in the top eight based on home form this season and against an Aston Villa side who have won just once away from home all season you'd expect Stoke to justify their generous looking odds.
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