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The FourFourTwo Preview: Stoke vs Aston Villa

Despite sitting 11th in the table, Villa have lost consecutive matches to Fulham and Manchester United, failing to score and conceding five in the process.

Villa have won just two of their last 10, but have shown an ability to grind out draws and manager Paul Lambert is encouraged by his squad's attitude.

"We're stronger as a group and we're growing stronger all the time," Lambert told the Birmingham Mail.

"Defeats are part of the job, but you simply dust yourself down and get right back at it. This attitude is increasingly evident in our play and the way we can deal with adversity.

"We're still a work in progress and we're nowhere near the finished article, but the foundations are in place."

Lambert will be hopeful striker Christian Benteke returns to form, with the Belgium forward now having failed to score in more than three months.

Benteke's last goal came in a 2-1 home defeat against Newcastle United in mid-September and his return of four goals in 14 Premier League fixtures is a far cry from his 19-goal haul last term.

Villa have not had a regular source of goals this season, with Libor Kozak (three goals) and Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann (one each in the league) failing to fire consistently.

One player who has starred this season has been 24-year-old midfielder Fabian Delph, though, with the former Leeds United product tipped for an England call-up after a superb run of form.

Stoke City have climbed to 13th on the back of a three-match unbeaten league run, but will be downcast after a 2-0 League Cup quarter-final defeat to Manchester United on Wednesday.

Mark Hughes' side are slowly starting to show signs of improvement, but Stoke have not scored in four of their last five fixtures.

Captain Ryan Shawcross injured his groin against his former club United and will miss Saturday's match, as will normal central defensive partner Robert Huth (knee).

That will mean Hughes has to use his squad, with Marc Wilson and Marc Muniesa potentially filling the centre-back positions.

Matthew Etherington (back) is Stoke's only other worry, but he could still feature, while midfielder Stephen Ireland is ineligible under the terms of his loan deal from Villa.

The likes of Joe Bennett (back), Jores Okore (knee) and Charles N'Zogbia (calf) are no closer to a return for Villa and uncertainty surrounds injuries suffered by Ron Vlaar (calf) and Chris Herd (facial injury).

Stoke have not won one of the last five meetings against Villa – four have been draws – but the hosts have happy memories of facing the Midlands club.

Stoke's first Premier League win came against Villa in August 2008, as Mamady Sidibe scored an injury-time winner in a 3-2 thriller.