Villa v Stoke preview: Lambert’s respect for Potters approach
Paul Lambert acknowledges that Villa face a tough test against Stoke - but refuses to join the critics who deride their supposed "direct" style of play.
Arsene Wenger once compared Stoke to a rugby team after his slick side were bullied by the pugnacious Potters.
But Lambert said there's far more to Stoke than a fierce fighting approach, with the boss saying the Staffordshire side have plenty of quality in their ranks.
He accepts that, on occasion, Stoke have a marauding manner but says that's "their prerogative".
Villa boss Lambert also has every respect for his Britannia Stadium counterpart Tony Pulis and is impressed by his achievements over the past few seasons.
"I think Tony has done fantastic there, a brilliant job," he said.
"There is not a right or wrong way to play football.
"It is everybody's prerogative how they play and Stoke, for a number of years now, have been terrific in the league. Tony is a top bloke and it is going to be a really hard game for us.
"Look at their individual players, they have some really good ones and it's not just a physical presence.
"I don't think you have to make an apology for being physical. It is part and parcel of the game but they can also play.
"They are in a rich vein of form but that is what a couple of wins can do. It can catapult you up the league.
"We are under no illusions how hard it is going to be. But we are playing well enough ourselves to win."
Gabby said: "It's going to be a tough game, no question. They beat West Brom at their place and everyone knows what a good run West Brom have been on. It's going to be a really tough game.
"They have real quality players in their ranks, the likes of Steven Nzonzi and Charlie Adam. They are good players who like to play. They don't just lump it!"
Bannan added: "In the past when we've played Stoke at Villa Park, it's not been as physical as some people might think.
"They have a lot of good footballers. A lot of people say they're physical but I think it's changed for them over the last couple of seasons.
"A lot of that reputation came about because of the Rory Delap long-throw but he doesn't play as much now.
"They have bought quality players like Charlie Adam, Michael Kightly and they have Steven Nzonzi and Glenn Whelan. I don't think they are physical as people think.
"Don't get me wrong, it will be a tough battle but we'll be up for it."
There's no question Villa head into the match on fine form.
Boss Lambert makes the point that in the last seven Barclays Premier League games, only Manchester United and Manchester City have beaten his lions.
"People tend to overlook that," he said.
"We've been unfairly criticised at times because we are young and people think 'young team' but we look at the ways things are going at the minute and we are doing really fine.
"You try and give them belief that they can compete and they are more than holding their own.
"I have every faith in those lads to do everything they can for the club. They have earned the right to play.
"Young players play without fear. You have to sustain it. You can't say you are going to play one good game in every six. You have to try and play every game as best you can and at this minute in time, they are playing very well.
"There is a long way to go but I'm happy with the way we are playing. We are playing well enough to win.
"We have to use our own strength to try and get the ball down and play.
"The lads will know what they are going to come up against but, Stoke were in Europe not long ago.
"It just shows the magnitude of how far Stoke have come on and what we are trying to do here.
"It's not just the physicality of the game, they can play as well."
Villa v Stoke City
Snap up your seats now by calling 0800 612 0970, visiting the ticket offices at Villa Village or Birmingham New Street or by buying online.
AVTV DON'T MISS
Charles N'Zogbia is hoping to force his way into the reckoning after returning from a knee injury.
Joe Bennett could resume training next week following his month-long absence with a leg problem.
Stoke are expected to welcome back Cameron Jerome [ankle] and Michael Owen [hamstring], but Charlie Adam will serve a one-match ban.
Former Villa striker Peter Crouch hopes to play after having a mouth guard fitted to protect dental work after he lost some teeth in Stoke's win over Newcastle.
GENTING BETTING GUIDE
Villa win - 11/8
Check out our FAQs on betting.
Don't forget, if you win your bet, cash payment is available after the game from the North Stand payout office, which is open an hour after the game finishes.
However you are also able collect your winnings online via www.gentingcasino.com/villaclaim.
Good luck and let's hope for a great result!
Villa will be wearing their traditional home kit of claret and blue.
LAST TIME OUT
Villa 1-1 Stoke City
Villa are unbeaten in their last 13 top-flight home matches against Stoke City.
Five of the last seven Premier League meetings between the two sides have ended in a draw.
Stoke are on a five-match unbeaten run and have also won their last three games.
The Potters have kept the most amount of clean sheets in the top flight this term .
Stoke have allowed the opposition just 10 shots on target from set-pieces - fewer than any other side.
Snap up your tickets and back the boys against Stoke.