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FULL-TIME: No goals in the end between Aston Villa and 10-man Stoke City. The hosts' 3-5-2 formation worked well although they could not take their chances with the best of them falling to Christian Benteke. Jonathan Walters missed City's best chance as he sliced wide but the Potters are now unbeaten in six, while Villa extended their unbeaten run to four.
RED CARD: Ryan Shotton is shown a second yellow for tripping Fabian Delph and referee Roger East sends him down the tunnel. Replays show the full-back tried to pull out and can count himself unlucky!
Nathan Baker hammers the ball away for a Stoke throw which Shotton delivers.
Ashley Westwood's delivery is a beauty, but Bent can't reach it.
We're going to have an added three extra minutes of stoppage time here at Villa Park.
Brilliant tackle by Eric Lichaj on Cameron Jerome and he also wins the goal kick.
CHANCES VILLA!! Lowton's ball is cleared as Benteke comes close to meeting his cross. Then the Belgium striker attempts another overhead before there's a rush of blood to Eric Lichaj's head as his cross is over hit.
Bent has hardly had a touch since he came on as has Crouch. We're heading for a draw, unless we have a dramatic conclusion to his game.
Just the one yellow card in this match. There could easily have been more as Stoke win a throw.
This will be Villa's fourth clean sheet in their last seven games if they collect a point from this.
Stephen Ireland looks to put his cross into a good position, but the ball drifts the wrong side of the goal posts and it's a goal kick.
Villa face Norwich in a League Cup quarter-final on Tuesday before facing trips to Liverpool and Chelsea in the Premier League. A testing couple of weeks ahead for them . Stoke take on Everton at home and Tottenham away in their next couple of matches.
Crouch is manhandled and Ryan Shotton's delivery is fantastic, but it's cleared only to Cameron Jerome, but his cross goes straight out for a Villa throw much to the delight of the home faithful.
SUBSTITUTION: Fabian Delph comes on for Barry Bannan for the closing stages of this match.
Tom Kennedy says: "I think Aston Villa have been off form the past few weeks and deserve a win Bent will score a goal and It will end 1-0."
Stoke win a throw and here comes another long throw from Shotton, but Baker wins the header.
SUBSTITUTION: Peter Crouch comes on for Kenwyne Jones with his glowing gum shield.
YELLOW CARD: However, Shotton is immediately booked for not giving the ball back.
Ryan Shotton - who has impressed down the right - gets his cross in, but Guzan collects.
If it stays this way, it would mean a third draw in four for Villa, but both sides are showing attacking intent and we could be seeing former Villa man Peter Crouch in action soon.
Superb piece of skill by Ashley Westwood as he kept the ball in play on the near touchline. The home fans loved that!
Ireland loses out to Steven Nzonzi, but he wins the ball back and Geoff Cameron clears.
Benteke is caught in an offside position as we approach the last twenty minutes of this contest. It has been a battle!
By the way, Bent's arrival was greeted by cheers by the Villa fans and he'll get an opportunity to work alongside Christian Benteke for only the second time this season.
SUBSTITUTION: Former Birmingham City man Cameron Jerome replaces Matthew Etherington for Stoke.
CHANCE FOR STOKE! A rare opportunity for the Potters as the ball spins to Jonathan Walters, but he slices wide.
SUBSTITUTIONS: Darren Bent and Stephen Ireland replace Gabby Agbonlahor and Brett Holman respectively.
Darren Bent is coming on for Villa! Meanwhile, Stoke win a corner but Guzan punches the ball away.
Confident play by Villa at the back as they bring the ball out. Brett Holman attempts a shot from a prodigious distance and it's well blocked.
Shotton's throw is headed away and then his cross is cleared. Villa's turn to defend now.
Ryan Shotton's attempted cross is blocked away for a throw to the visitors.
UNLUCKY!! Christian Benteke turns away from two defenders but just can't find the corner as Geoff Cameron makes the block before bringing the ball out.
Villa have 14 points from 15 games and are two points above the drop zone, but they're playing like a confident side unbeaten in three. They come forward as we hit the hour mark.
Mark Cooper sums things up in his email as he says: "Villa 0 - 0 Huth and Shawcross."
Stoke have 22 points on the board this season - their best ever and we can see why they're doing so well with some solid defending this afternoon.
Good covering by Ciaran Clark, despite the attentions of Glenn Whelan.
Guzan and Jones square up as Ryan Shotton's deflected cross is well caught by the American as the striker came barging into him.
Stoke have the ball now as Whelan picks out Etherington, but he has to go back.
It's become a battle at Villa Park between these sides, but there's been no bookings amazingly.
The atmophere picks up as firstly Chris Herd claims he's felled and then Ryan Shotton is brought crashing down by a late tackle by Eric Lichaj.
STOKE HANG ON!! Gabby Agbonlahor claims for a penalty as he goes over but Roger East waves play on.
Glenn Whelan slides in on Ashley Westwood and the decision goes Villa's way.
Villa keep possession at the back and allow Bannan to take over. There's a lack of movement and Benteke gives the ball away.
In what's been a very tenacious contest, referee Roger East has kept his cards in his pocket.
Kenwyne Jones is ruled to be in an offside position and the Stoke fans are upset with the No.9.
CHANCE VILLA!! Christian Benteke is put in and with a clear sight of goal his sidefoot effort from 10-yards is saved by Asmir Begovic. Arguably the best chance of the game!
No half-time changes then as Villa get us underway in this second half.
If you'd like to air your views during the second half, email Raz...that's me! at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet me: @RazMirza and I'll publish as many as I can.
Aston Villa are now 2/1 to claim victory with our friends @Skybet, who make Stoke 5/2 and the draw 11/10. Five of the last seven Premier League meetings between Villa and Stoke have ended as draws, including three of the four played at Villa Park so I was hedging my bets and going for a 1-1 draw, which was priced at a steady 5/1 before kick-off and it's now gone out to 6/1. Head now to SKYBET to place your bets on this match.
HALF-TIME: Stalemate at Villa Park although Villa created the best of the opportunities with Christian Benteke and Matt Lowton going the closest but Stoke have held firm. Neither keeper has really been tested. And there was a flashpoint on the stroke of half-time as Ciaran Clark went in with his studs showing on Glenn Whelan. A challenge for which many of the visiting players did not like one bit. Let's hope for better in the second period!
We're into one added minute of stoppage time as Ciaran Clark goes in with his studs showing on Glenn Whelan. However, referee Roger East has already pulled play up for a free-kick to Villa as Clark was clipped by Jones.
No goals but not for the want of trying at Villa Park. The hosts win a free-kick from Ryan Shotton's long throw.
Villa have spent the entire year in the bottom of the Premier League, but the youngsters are showing good signs this afternoon as Agbonlahor attempts to find Benteke, but his cross is too long this time.
Villa defend it well though as Ashley Westwood heads the ball away at the near post.
Matthew Etherington wins his side a rare corner and here come the big men.
Stoke are not diving in when the ball is in their box. Holman fouls Geoff Cameron on halfway.
Holman cuts the ball back for Benteke, but his shot is well blocked again.
Benteke and Holman looks to combine, until the big striker fails to stay on his feet.
Huth wins the ball from Agbonlahor and now the defender heads straight out for a Villa throw.
Christian Benteke shows fine movement, but the diagonal ball fails to find him.
Steven Nzonzi gets a kick in the head and although the fans enjoy the moment, he's in need of some medical attention.
CHANCE VILLA!! Eric Lichaj's cross is met by Ryan Shawcross, but the ball loops up in the air and Christian Benteke attempts an overhead kick, but referee Roger East blows his whistle for studs up by the Belgium striker.
Steven Nzonzi looked to have lashed out at Nathan Baker in the area, although I don't think referee Roger East saw it, otherwise the former Blackburn man would have been walking!
Stoke are hard to beat and just three defeats this season proves that. Now it's all kicked off in the penalty area!
Robert Huth's ball down the line finds nobody and is cheered by Villa fans.
Not much action to report in the last couple of minutes. Stoke seem to have settled after that electric start by Villa.
Darren Bent watches on from the Villa bench. The England striker is looking quite glum...a bit like scrooge!
I'm not going to argue with you Mark. You're spot on and both Huth and Shawcross have been immense at the back this afternoon. If it wasn't for them, Stoke would be two or three down by now.
Mark Cooper emails in to say: "Shawcross and Huth are the best defensive pairing in the league on their current form."
Robert Huth thunders in on Westwood, but Bannan's delivery from the free-kick is cleared.
The Stoke fans are shouting 'Ole' as they pass the ball about the back. It doesn't last for very long though because Villa win the ball.
Stoke City have kept the most clean sheets in the Premier League this season (7) and they're showing us why this afternoon. They've held out well and are now enjoying some decent possession.
Stoke enjoy a spell of possession, but Villa close them down well and here come Villa until Bannan misplaces his pass.
Robert Huth flies in on Benteke and wins the ball from Ashley Westwood's sliderule pass.
Another Villa free-kick as Benteke goes down. The hosts have enjoyed a massive 80% possession in the last five minutes!
Barry Bannan attempts a curler, but the ball is high and over the crossbar. Que the applause for Stiliyan Petrov at Villa Park. Even manager Paul Lambert joins in!
Remember, this Villa side are small in comparison with Stoke, but they're winning their fair share in the box as Christian Benteke wins Villa another free-kick to the left of the area.
Nathan Baker is caught and Villa earn another free-kick which is floated in by Bannan, but Stoke clear.
Plenty of invention by Villa, who have lined up with three at the back in a 3-5-2 formation. However, Stoke are doing well to hold on right now.
Matthew Etherington gets wide, but his deflected delivery is easily caught by Brad Guzan.
Brilliant start from the men in claret and blue and the home fans appreciate some of the football and once touch play.
CHANCE! Excellent movement from Villa which ends in Matt Lowton's left-foot curler being gathered by Asmir Begovic.
VILLA CLOSE!! Wonderful block by Ryan Shawcross from Christian Benteke's goal bound effort from eight-yards. Then Barry Bannan fires his shot wide of the far post.
Kenwyne Jones' pass is short and Gabby Agbonlahor's cross is knocked out for another Villa corner.
After a collision off the ball, Jonathan Walters shanks the ball out for a goal-kick rather than give it to a Villa player and he gets booed by the Holte End.
Rob Shenton Tweets in a useful stat if you're a Stoke fan: "Hopeful for Stoke today. They've won more points in the last 5 games than any other PL team, they are definitely getting stronger."
Matthew Etherington comes forward, but he loses out and now Christian Benteke is ruled to be in an offside position.
Encouraging start for Paul Lambert's men in these early minutes as Ryan Shawcross slams the ball clear for a Villa throw.
Barry Bannan's ball in is punches behind for another corner. The delivery is not the best although Brett Holman hits one from the edge of the area and the ball loops up and into Asmir Begovic's welcome hands.
Christian Benteke causes City an early problem, but Stoke clear until Gabby Agbonlahor wins his side a free-kick in front of the Stoke fans.
Villa now play the ball around the back as Matt Lowton's cross is chested behind for a corner.
Stoke are aiming for back-to-back away wins in the top flight and that's something they've only done once before. The visitors are on the attack.
Villa will defend the Holte End as Tony Pulis runs down to his dugout after giving Paul lambert a big hug. Stoke get us underway!
There have been just eight goals scored in the last six matches between Villa and Stoke so don't expect a goal rush today. Both teams are in their traditional kits and we're just about ready for kick-off.
The teams are on their way out and if Villa are in-form, Stoke are flying at the moment. Three unbeaten for Villa but three wins on the spin for City. Forty miles seperate these clubs and it's far from a sell out at Villa Park this afternoon.
James Hill from Northampton says: "Stoke are in great form though this will be a tough test. Glad to see Jones starting, he deserves it on recent performances. Going for Stoke to sneak it 1-0!!!"
As we approach kick-off, please keep your wonderful comments coming in people. Email Raz...that's me! at email@example.com or Tweet me: @RazMirza and I'll publish as many as I can.
Mark Cooper is hopeful of an away win today, but eventually decides to sit on the fence. He says: "Hi Raz, I expect another defensively solid performance by Stoke City. This game could go either way as I a single goal could win it! I am going to predict a draw."
The Villa Park grass is in immaculate condition as ever and a round of applause has to go out to pitch perfectionist Jonathan Calderwood at the club after being crowned IOG Football Groundsman of the Year!
Edd Irwin is back in touch from delightful Durban and he rubs it in by saying: "Hi Raz. 28 Degrees celsius!" I think we're at about 3 degrees here at Villa Park today buddy. Oh how beautiful it is in Birmingham!!
Harjit Bansal is not a happy Villa fan. He Tweets: "Very sad to see Ireland and Bent on the bench. We need them to start! I still reckon 1-0 Villa win, but its going be very close. However in Lambert we trust!"
Aston Villa are 7/5 to claim victory with our friends @Skybet, who make Stoke 2/1 and the draw 9/4. Villa's Christian Benteke is favourite to bag the first goal for the hosts at 5/1 and is 8/1 to bag a brace. Gabby Agbonlahor is 7/1 while Brett Holman is 9/1 to score first. Barry Bannan is 6/1 to score in 90 minutes while Ashley Westwood is 20/1 to score first. Meanwhile, the Potters' Kenwyne Jones is 8/1 to score first. Matthew Etherington is a 14/1 shout while Robert Huth is 6/1 score in 90 minutes this afternoon. Five of the last seven Premier League meetings between Villa and Stoke have ended as draws, including three of the four played at Villa Park so I'm hedging my bets and going for another draw - 1-1, which is priced at a steady 5/1. Head now to SKYBET to place your bets on this match.
Ex Potter Edd Irwin from Durban, South Africa emails in to say: "Hi Raz. Pity Adam is unable to play and the starting line up is without Crouch. Looking at the team it has a strong look about them so I'm going for 1-0 win for the Potters. P.S. Not on TV, so I'll be watching your commentry." Well enjoy Edd and I'm sure the weather in Durban is much warmer than it is here. That's a cert!
TEAM NEWS: Paul Lambert names an unchanged side fagainst Stoke, with striker Darren Bent again amongst the substitutes. Meanwhile, Stoke boss Tony Pulis is forced to make one change with midfielder Charlie Adam serving a one-match ban after incurring five bookings. He is replaced by Dean Whitehead, who came off the bench to score the winner at West Brom last weekend. Striker Peter Crouch returns as a substitute having had a mouthguard fitted after having three teeth knocked out against Newcastle 10 days ago.
Joshua Graves Tweets: "Stoke are in good form at the moment but Villa play very well against them, so I think it will be a close 1-1 draw."
Don't forget folks, if you'd like to air your views before or during the match, email Raz...that's me! at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet me: @RazMirza and I'll publish as many as I can.
ASTON VILLA: Guzan, Lowton, Baker, Clark, Lichaj, Holman, Westwood, Bannan, Herd, Agbonlahor, Benteke.
SUBSTITUTES: Given, Ireland, El Ahmadi, Weimann, Williams, Delph, Bent.
STOKE CITY: Begovic, Cameron, Huth, Shawcross, Shotton, Whelan, Nzonzi, Etherington, Whitehead, Jones, Walters.
SUBSTITUTES: Sorensen, Palacios, Upson, Kightly, Crouch, Wilkinson, Jerome.
REFEREE: Roger East (Matches 3, R2 Y4).
Here come the teams...
The absence of Charlie Adam who is suspended will blunt the visitors' attacking, who may opt for a more direct approach. Former Villa man Peter Crouch could return to action having lost some teeth in a collision with Newcastle's Fabricio Coloccini and has had a mouth guard fitted. Cameron Jerome should be fit for selection after an ankle injury kept him out of the victory at West Brom last time out as the Potters look to secure another Midlands scalp.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis remains adamant that nobody will be leaving the club in January: "We won't be selling any of our big players in January. The money situation at the end of the year is just enormous. We wanted to quell all the speculation now and say to everyone concerned, 'No one will be leaving'." I can reveal that defender Ryan Shawcross is expected to sign a new contract with the club and news of that could be announced before kick-off today!
Only the two Manchester clubs have beaten Villa in the last seven games and Lambert feels his side have been unfairly criticised: "We are young and people look at us and think 'young team' but if you look at the way things are going at the moment, we are doing really fine. These players have to be thrown in at some stage in their career but I have every faith in them to do what they can for our club. They have earned the right to play. It is not as if they are there by default." Winger Charles N'Zogbia has returned to training after a six-week absence with a knee problem but this game might have come too soon for him. Skipper and centre-half Ron Vlaar remains a major doubt after missing the last two games with a calf problem. Enda Stevens (ankle) and Joe Bennett (knee) are still sidelined as Villa look to extend their unbeaten run to four matches.
The Villans are up to 15th in the table after a three-game unbeaten run but Paul Lambert admits they have fallen behind their neighbours in the pecking order. He said: "Stoke are well ahead of us in terms of stability - the way they have built their squad - and longevity. We will try to keep moving up the table. It will be difficult but we are certainly playing well enough." Lambert keeps snubbing Darren Bent, but Villa are struggling for goals without him. Only QPR have scored fewer than Villa in the Premier League this season.
Potters centre-backs Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross are part of the Premier League's second meanest defence - only champions Manchester City have let in fewer goals this season. Seven of Villa's ten players who started last weekend at QPR were 5ft 10 or under. Will that prove to be a problem for them today against a gigantic looking Stoke side Villa fans? 6ft 3in Belgium striker Christian Benteke will certainly be ready for the challenge and a battle at Villa Park.
Expect a bash of sorts at Villa Park today as Paul Lambert's youngsters tackle Stoke as West Midlands take on East Midlands in a clash which is not expected to be one for the purists.
If you'd like to air your views before or during the match, email Raz...that's me! at email@example.com or Tweet me: @RazMirza and I'll publish as many as I can fans.
Hello and welcome to our live minute-by-minute text commentary of what's bound to be a bruising Premier League clash between Aston Villa and Everton at Villa Park.