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Can Aston Villa overcome their struggles to beat Stoke City?

The Villans host the Potters in a match that could define the season.

Figure it out, guys
Figure it out, guys
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Stoke City are a weird team. They have Bojan and Ibrahim Afellay, two former Barcelona players, but also employ Stephen Ireland. Just one spot above Aston Villa in the table, in 17th, the Potters finally got their first win of the season last matchday against Bournemouth.

Villa's struggles early on this season have been well-documented. We know this team shouldn't be contending for trophies, but this was the year they were supposed to push forward, and not be locked in a relegation battle.

I'll jump right into the reasons why. For a more comprehensive preview, here's Elis Sandford's.

Adama Traoré is electric. Sure it's great to have him on the bench to try to play the role of super sub, but what if he were on earlier and could provide the spark needed to open the scoring within minutes of kickoff. Then again, Villa are just as likely to concede another untimely goal, like the one that proved to be the difference against Liverpool.

Which is why I want to see Ciaran Clark back in the lineup for Joleon Lescott. On the right side of defence, Alan Hutton should keep his place. Just ahead of them, go with an unchanged midfield. Three midfielders are needed to combat the aggressive 4-2-3-1 formation Mark Hughes uses.

Surely manager Tim Sherwood will stick with Rudy Gestede after his brace last weekend. It's tough to argue against starting Jack Grealish, but he hasn't been at his best lately. Also, he's played a lot of football this season. Villa must be careful not to burn him out. Maybe his head is clear now after deciding his international future. It's either him or Carles Gil, as I'd give Adama a starting chance.

Possible lineups:

Aston Villa (4-3-3):

Brad Guzan; Alan Hutton, Micah Richards, Ciaran Clark, Jordan Amavi; Carlos Sánchez, Ashley Westwood, Idrissa Gana; Adama Traoré, Rudy Gestede, Carles Gil.

Stoke City (4-2-3-1):

Jack Butland; Glen Johnson, Geoff Cameron, Philipp Wollscheid, Erik Pieters; Charlie Adam, Glenn Whelan; Xherdan Shaqiri, Bojan, Ibrahim Afellay; Jonathan Walters.

Who would you start? Let us know in the comments!