February 19, 2015

Two sides who have both made disappointing starts to their Premier League campaigns square off Saturday when Aston Villa welcome Stoke City to Villa Park.

The Villans (1-1-5) began the season with a 1-0 win at newly promoted Bournemouth but have since picked up just one point from their last six matches.

The Midlanders suffered their third straight league defeat after losing 3-2 at Liverpool on Saturday and are now third from bottom, just two points above basement club Sunderland.

Liverpool took the lead at Anfield after 66 seconds through former Villa player James Milner, before fit-again Daniel Sturridge added two more for the Reds. Villa replied with a brace from striker Rudy Gestede but could not force an equaliser against the Merseysiders.

Benin international Gestede was disappointed his two goals against Liverpool were in vain but insists Villa can take heart from a battling performance.

"When you score two goals away from home, most of the time you take something - but unfortunately for us we didn't this weekend," the 26-year-old Gestede told his club's official website. "We're close to getting the next win I believe.

"Now we need to improve and be stronger as a team and get some wins. Stoke are in a similar situation to us. We're at home in our next game. We need to take three points."

The Potters (1-3-3) beat Bournemouth 2-1 at home last weekend to claim their first league win of the season after claiming three points from their first six matches. Stoke are 17th in the standings, one place and two points above Villa.

Jonathan Walters gave Stoke a halftime lead against Bournemouth before Dan Gosling equalised for the Cherries on 76 minutes. Mame Biram Diouf came off the bench and headed home the winner seven minutes from time to secure all three points for the Potters.

Defender Geoff Cameron is confident Stoke can build on their opening league victory at Villa Park.

"We have the monkey off our backs now, having picked up our first win of the season, so we are looking forward to the game and are in good spirits," United States international Cameron told a pre-match media conference. "We really want to kick-on now and put together a run of good results.

"Aston Villa are struggling a little bit and they are trying to get into the groove of things just as much as we are, so we know that it will be a very difficult game for us at the weekend. We just need to focus on ourselves, because if we go there and do all the right things then we can beat them – there is no doubt about that."

Villa midfielder Gary Gardner is in contention after recovering from a foot problem, but Gabriel Agbonlahor is doubtful due to a calf problem. Jores Okore (knee) is not due back until November.

Stoke record signing Xherdan Shaqiri faces a late test on a thigh injury, while defender Ryan Shawcross is not expected to return from back surgery until later this month.

Both teams won on the other's grounds last season, with Stoke winning 2-1 at Villa Park in February. Scott Sinclair put Villa in front after 20 minutes, but Diouf equalised on the stroke of halftime. Victor Moses scored the winner from the penalty spot in the third minute of second-half stoppage time.

Villa won 1-0 in August 2014 at the Britannia on Andreas Weimann's goal five minutes after halftime.

A draw has been the most common result between the two sides in the Premier League. There have been six stalemates in 14 matches, with five Stoke wins and three victories for Villa.

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