- Premier League
Lambert: Villa targeted by referees
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert believes referees are showing too many yellow cards to his young players, saying they are an "easy target" for officials.
Lambert's side have picked up 65 bookings this season - four more than this weekend's opponents Stoke, who are generally regarded as being far more physical.
The Scot, taking up the challenge of becoming the first Villa boss to record a victory at the Britannia Stadium, said: "Some of our bookings are caused by us being young - we're an easy target. It can work against you if you are young.
"The referees will say that maybe we deserve some bookings, that's for sure. But some we haven't deserved. I hope it wouldn't be the case that referees are more likely to book lower-profile players, because everyone is equal out there. Some of our bookings haven't been justified."
Mark Clattenburg, who has handed out 84 yellow cards and six reds in his 30 matches this season, will be in charge at the Britannia.
Lambert has also urged his players to show strength and courage as they look to close the gap between themselves and 13th-placed Stoke to a single point.
"You know it's going to be a hard, physical game," he said. "You expect people to be strong, but I like people to play the game the right way. Getting hurt is part of the game. There will be times where you have to put your head in and take the hit."
He said he hoped his players could get the home fans anxious as Villa attempt to extend Stoke's recent dismal run of form. "I think, of late, the crowd have been edgy up there," he explained. "You have to keep that with them and try to keep them pretty quiet. It will certainly help us if we can get the crowd going against their own team."