Basement dwellers Aston Villa travel to the Potters on Saturday looking to keep their slim Premier League hopes alive when they take on Stoke.
Relieved of Cup duty, both teams have enjoyed a two-week break since their last outing. Last time out the Villains were humiliated by Liverpool, losing 6-0 at home, while the Potters recorded their first win in five, winning 3-1 at Bournemouth.
Captain Ryan Shawcross confirmed he will not be fit in time for the match, adding to manager Mark Hughes’ defensive woes. Shawcross joins Geoff Cameron, Glen Johnson and Marc Wilson on the injury table, while Phil Bardsley and Marc Muniesa are early doubts.
There is positive news for the hosts, though, with top-scorer Marko Arnautovic (7) returning from illness having missed the last match.
Two wins and two draws in their last six matches represents a slight improvement in form for Rene Garde’s side, which seems to have come too little, too late. Villa are rooted to the bottom of the table, seven points behind 19th-placed Sunderland.
Morale seems to be at an all-time low in the Villa camp as fans are quickly losing patience with their under-performing team, whose efforts against the Reds suggested they are resigned to relegation.
Villa will travel to the Britannia with fit-again striker Rudy Gestede, who has missed the last four matches with a hamstring injury. Jordan Ayew, Jack Grealish remain sidelined.