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Stoke Vs. Aston Villa Preview: Box It Up And Put A Bow On It

No wonder the Villa players often try to run in two directions at once.
No wonder the Villa players often try to run in two directions at once.

Some genius in charge of the Premier League schedule decided that Stoke City v Aston Villa would be the perfect way to wrap up the Boxing Day matches. That means once again the attention of the English football world will be focused on the Villa. Shall we think back to what happened in the past month while everyone was watching? Manchester United, which nearly made millions gouge their eyes out simultaneously. Or Tottenham Hotspur, where Alex McLeish started Alan Hutton as a right mid, pretty much begging for Spurs to put the smack down.

And now the Villans head for the Britannia, a notoriously difficult place to find any points. Is there any reason to believe non-Sir Alex is going to put out an attacking lineup?

I guess that depends on whether AML was actually watching Wednesday's defeat against Arsenal. If he only factored in the result, the last minute victory for the Gunners, we'll never see another attacking lineup. But if he watched, the world might not see the one of the most despicable matches in recent history on Monday. Continuing to field both Charles N'Zogbia, who is finally showing himself to be the player we'd hoped, and Marc Albrighton, whose confidence just needs to keep growing, will provide service to Darren Bent, and then...dare we dream?

As for Stoke, well, what can we say about them that isn't summed up in the typical cliches around Tony Pulis's side? The Potters do what they do and they do it well -- not in a way that's enjoyable for most of us to watch, but it's hard to argue with eighth place while remaining in European football post-December. Plus, Stoke are great at set-pieces. This certainly bodes well.

Alan Hutton will be serving his suspension after picking up two yellows in quick succession midweek (read: he remains a moron, despite having his best game yet in a Villa kit). Darren Bent is fit, while Emile Heskey, James Collins and Stephen Ireland all are likely...yay? And, of course, Peter Crouch returns for Stoke after missing the Manchester City match with a mystery illness. Allergy to Yaya Toure, perhaps?

Predictions, guys? I'm sensing a draw, and, quite frankly, I'll be ok with that.

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