Premier League preview: Aston Villa v Stoke

Aston Villa will be without hospitalised manager Gerard Houllier when they take on Stoke City in the English Premier League on Saturday.After weathering a difficult period at the helm of the Villa Park outfit, Frenchman Houllier has overseen a minor revival in the team’s fortunes of late.

They are unbeaten in three matches and have climbed to 10th in the table following a 1-0 win at home to Newcastle and a 2-1 victory away to West Ham.

Stoke City, who booked their place in the FA Cup final following a 5-0 thrashing over Bolton Wanderers last weekend, are their next opponents.

But Villa must tackle Tony Pulis’ side without their manager after Houllier fell ill and was hospitalised on Wednesday.

The Frenchman, who is reportedly in a comfortable condition, will remain in hospital for several days while he undergoes tests.

Houllier previously underwent 11-hour, life-saving heart surgery while in charge of Liverpool in October 2001.

Assistant manager Gary McAllister is expected to take charge of the first team on Saturday.

Stoke are three places below Villa in 13th and two points worse off, but have played one match fewer than their hosts.

Prior to Sunday’s unexpected demolition of Bolton, their last league outing ended in a 3-2 defeat away to Tottenham Hotspur.

Villa may be without their manager, but they are not short of on-field options, with every member of the squad fit and available for selection.

For Stoke, defender Danny Higginbotham and striker Mamady Sidibe are out until next season.

Centre-back Abdoulaye Faye remains sidelined with a hamstring injury.