Match Preview: Aston Villa at Stoke

Stoke is a tough place to go. Only Arsenal, The Clowns, Manchester United and Chelsea have gone to the Britannia Stadium and picked up maximum points this season. The plus looking at that little statistic is we've beaten three of them this season and well, ever the optimist the day before a match, I think we can tomorrow too.

But, it won't be easy and I know I write that about most matches these days, but it is true. At the same time, I do think we have enough, if things all fall into place on the day and that has to be seen as some sort of progress - if it all clicks, we can beat anyone on our day.


I also don't want to turn this post into something CSM will jump on and so I'm going to try and be very specific, not cover bases and there will be no mention of 'if I were a betting man' whatsoever. But, I do want to look at options and I think this is an important part of March for us.

Using the squad

March is a busy month for us. We are a third through the month but we have five games to play in two weeks and while you can ask the same eleven players to play every game by the end of those two weeks, they will be tired, mentally and physically. Now is the time to use the squad and I don't mean wholesale changes.

Marc Albrighton made a return for the reserves the other night when we beat The Clowns 4-0, Nathan Delfouneso scored two in that match also and while I really do think Heskey and Carew should get the nod for tomorrow, what is to say that Delfouneso can not replace Heskey with 30 minutes to go - regardless of the score?

This game, or some of the five coming up should also be idea for Fabian Delph and while I'm not a fitness coach, I fancy Petrov and Milner could both do with a rest and however the manager wants to do it, I fancy now is a very good time to be giving some of his players little breaks and because Milner is our Mr Versatile and because we have Albrighton coming back, there is nothing to say the likes of Downing and Webcam can also benefit from this.

Defensively, we have cover for every position and because I wouldn't be surprised to see Bouma back in a first team shirt by the end of the month, there is a chance every player in the first team can be rested at some stage over the next couple of weeks. This really is the business end of the season for us and we need to approach this using every resource available to us.

Prediction

If we win tomorrow, we will move up to sixth place on goal difference and have two games in hand on Liverpool in seventh who play on Monday and I think that is exactly what will happen. I also think Liverpool will take back sixth place against Pompey on Monday, but I'm not convinced Liverpool will win.

Follow the action

If you are not heading to Stoke tomorrow and can't find a pub showing the game, why not buy a few beers and stick them in the fridge tonight. Then, at about 2pm tomorrow, sit down in front of your computer and follow the action here? We're going to be dropping links to lots of things and updating you with latest news, rumours and as soon as we get it, you'll get the team news too.