After beating a resilient Wycombe Wanderers side mid-week, Aston Villa progressed to the next stage of the FA Cup. The visitors came to Villa Park with nothing to lose and it turned out to be a much tougher game than expected. Nevertheless, the 2-0 win extended Villa’s ‘mini-revival’ to four games unbeaten in all competitions and Garde and fans alike are hoping that it will continue.
Next up is a visit to The Hawthorns, where the Villans will play West Bromwich Albion. The Baggies aren’t having the best of seasons in truth so it’s hard to tell just which West Bromwich Albion side will turn up. The manager, Tony Pulis, tends to focus on having a solid back line, using that as a platform to patiently build up play from the back.
Venue: The Hawthorns
Date: Saturday 23rd January 2016
Referee: Robert Madley
Tickets: Away allocation has sold out
For Aston Villa, Scottish international Alan Hutton remains sidelined with a hamstring injury which has troubled him for the last few weeks.
Gabriel Agbonlahor remains out with a back injury, although he has fallen out of favour with the current manager.
Carlos Sánchez returned to action midweek after recovering from a hamstring injury, although he was taken off at half time. He is a doubt for today and will be subject to a late fitness test to see if he could make the bench. The South American’s presence in midfield might be beneficial for this debatable derby, as they can often be tight games, with a bit more physicality then usual.
It was reported that Leandro Bacuna may be a doubt for this game a few days ago with a light injury to his calf but it seems he is now fit again. It will be interesting to see if Garde will opt for Richards or Bacuna in the right back position this afternoon.
The hosts will miss influential midfielder James Morrison, who will be sidelined until March with a hamstring injury.
Jonas Olsen, Chris Brunt and Darren Fletcher all remain doubts. The trio will face late fitness tests to see if they’ll be able to play this afternoon.
The danger men:
José Salomón Rondón, the twenty-six-year-old summer signing from Zenit St. Petersburg, admitted earlier this week that his £12 million price tag had affected his form as he was struggling to live up to the hype of being the club’s record signing. He has made a positive impact up front for the Baggies. He has only scored three goals so far this season. However, whenever I’ve seen him play, he does seem to put himself about the pitch. He likes to stretch defences if possible and is able to play as a lone target man up front if required. He’s strong, good in the air and likes to bring others into play. He’ll definitely be one for the Villa centre backs to watch carefully as he’ll pounce on any loose balls if given the chance.
James Morrison is another player I’d class as a threat but he’s out injured for this game.
Saido Berahino is fit and ready to play according to Tony Pulis, although the transfer saga with Berahino has continued all season and it looks very likely that he will be off this month if the hefty transfer fee could be agreed by Tottenham Hotspur or Newcastle United.
Despite the Villans’ recent revival, they must pick up more points on the road if they have any chance of survival. This means that they’ll have to go into hostile environments and perform. Some may argue that it is easier than playing at home as they’ll have less pressure from the Villa faithful.
In the last five away games, the Villans have drawn three – against Wycombe Wanderers in the FA Cup and Newcastle United and Southampton in the Premier League. The draws against the Magpies and the Saints were heralded as decent results. Garde’s men have also lost two against fellow relegation candidates (Sunderland and Norwich City) which really were ‘must-win’ games. The away form guide reads as D, L, L, D, D.
Their overall form paints a different picture, however. The Villans have won two, drawn two and lost one of their last five matches and are currently unbeaten in four games. This has resulted in muted praise for Garde’s charges, as they have shown fight and desire in those games to restore some pride.
The hosts are in similar form at home this season. They’ve won two, drawn two and lost one of their last five home games. They currently lie in thirteenth place in the league, six points clear of the relegation zone.
A win today for the Villans would bring them right back into the mix as they’ll only be three points behind the Black Cats should they fail to win their game against A.F.C. Bournemouth this afternoon.
In the past:
In the corresponding game earlier in the season, the Baggies got one over on Villa as they won 1-0. Despite controlling most of the game, a single Berahino tap in, a scuffy goal in all honesty, was more than enough to pass the bragging rights to West Bromwich Albion.
The last five meetings between the teams have seen no draws, with West Bromwich Albion having three wins and Aston Villa having two.
The last five meetings at The Hawthorns between the two sides have seen the home side winning twice and three draws. The Villans haven’t won away at West Bromwich Albion since 2008, when John Carew and Gabriel Agbonalahor were on target to hand the visitors victory.