An in-form Aston Villa understandably arrive as favourites on home turf for this encounter. The Premier League outfit have now won six of eight unbeaten matches since mid-July, including back-to-back 3-0 victories over Bristol City and Fulham in their last two.
All but one of their six wins over this period saw them register clean sheets, including all three at Villa Park over Palace, Arsenal and Sheffield Utd.
Dean Smith’s side have only been further strengthened at the back by the signing of Emiliano Martinez from the Gunners, especially with 34-year-old Tom Heaton not yet back from an injury he sustained on New Year’s Day.
The £20m fee may have seemed a bit steep for a goalkeeper who had spent nearly a decade in North London either out on loan or as a back-up option, but he’s already proved his worth in his first two outings, with his shutout against Fulham on Monday the first Villa have enjoyed on the road in the league in 2020.
Villa also have Bjorn Engels back in training, giving Dean Smith the option to rest Ezri Konsa and Tyrone Mings, with Kortney Hause also available to him.
We wouldn’t however encourage Villa fans to get used to three-goal hauls. They’ve managed to net more than twice in just four of their past 40 matches in all competitions, with two of the exceptions coming against League One outfit Burton Albion and when facing what was effectively Liverpool’s youth team in the FA Cup last December.
Both Teams To Score (No)
With Villa looking more solid at the back, this game shouldn’t’ feature too many goals and indeed, Stoke have been involved in remarkably low-scoring affairs this season.
Five of their six outings have seen just one goal or none at all, with the other featuring just two strikes.
In fact, 12 of 14 appearances dating back to late June have seen one team or the other fail to score, while nine of the past 10 have seen fewer than three goals as Stoke themselves kept seven clean sheets.
Aston Villa To Beat Stoke
The Potters have already had to overcome a Premier League side to reach this stage, beating Wolves 1-0 at Molineux a couple of weeks back as they stole it late on. Nuno Espirito Santo even fielded a fairly strong team featuring the likes of Willy Boly, Conor Coady, Romain Saiss, Leander Dendoncker, Ruben Neves, Adama Traore and record signing Fabio Silva.
However, it’s hard to see them claiming another scalp with the form Villa find themselves in, especially with Stoke missing some experience as Joe Allen and Ryan Shawcross both miss out.