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Friday, December 7, 2012
Lambert: Stoke about more than muscle

David Instone

Paul Lambert believes his improving Aston Villa side are in good shape to handle the challenge of in-form Stoke City on Saturday.

• Blog: Villa's Christmas wish list

Villa's climb up the table is more modest than that of their ninth-placed midlands rivals but a run of five points from three games has put daylight between them and the bottom three.

And, if they can match the physical demands, the manager insists his young squad have other attributes through which they can capitalise in the Villa Park clash.

"We have to use our strengths and try to get the ball down and play," he said. "Tony Pulis has done a fantastic job and it's a really tough game.

"There's no right and wrong way to play the game. It is everybody's prerogative how they play and Stoke, for a number of years now, have been terrific in the league. We have to try not to concede at set-plays and, if the ball comes into our box, deal with it. But it's not just the physicality, they can play.

"Look at their individuals... they have some really good players and it's not just physical presence. But we're playing well enough to win."

Irish defender Derrick Williams became the latest Villa youngster to be blooded in the first team when he went on as a substitute for his debut in last weekend's 1-1 draw at QPR.

And, despite the return of Charles N'Zogbia to training after six weeks out with a knee injury, all the signs are that Darren Bent will once again be on the sidelines in the shadow of a youthful line-up.

"We've been unfairly criticised at times because we are young and people think 'young team,'" Lambert added. "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. They have to get thrown in at some stage of their career but I have every faith in those lads to do everything they can for the football club. They have earned the right to play. It is not as if they are there by default.

"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 they are playing very well."

Villa can take heart from the rapid rise Stoke have made with their own revival and have themselves been beaten only by the two Manchester clubs in their last eight league and Capital One Cup games.

"They (Stoke) are in a rich vein of form but that is what a couple of wins can do  they can catapult you up the league," the manager said. "There's not much in the table, between the middle and ourselves, three points or so.

"I always try and be positive and think about the ones above us."

Skipper Ron Vlaar is still likely to be out with the calf injury that has forced him to miss the last two matches.

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