The day has arrived. Aston Villa welcome local rivals West Bromwich Albion to Villa Park. Without wanting to sound negative, it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Some fans have already given up on this season while others have described today’s game as make or break. No pressure eh?
Villa have struggled for form since WBA scored that late goal in the 2-2 draw at the Hawthorns earlier in the season. Of course, there is no coincidence that it fell at the same time as Jack Grealish picked up a shin injury.
Fans are losing patience and although some have questioned manager Dean Smith. I think more are looking at the players. Villa fans are demanding a performance. Most would agree that a defeat is never easy to take but when you are 2nd best after giving your all on the day, you can’t complain too much.
West Brom are the Championships top goalscorers with 62 goals. The 40 goals they have conceded to demonstrate that there will be goal scoring chances. As we proved against them at the Hawthorns.
Regardless of what you think of them as a club or their fans wanting the rivalry to be something it is not. In Darren Moore, they have got a manager who has united a club that was struggling last season. Had they appointed him earlier in the season, who knows, they may be playing Premiership football right now.
WBA have picked up 27 points on the road this season. Only the Championships top two have more points on the road, with 28 points.
Moore has got them playing a counter-attacking style of football and they will look to exploit the wide areas. They are usually happy to play short passes in their own half and attack at speed when their opponents are on the back foot.
ONE TO WATCH
My one to watch is Matt Phillips. The 27-year-old has lightning speed and has been one of the Baggies star players this season. He has contributed to 5 goals and 7 assists so far this season.
Phillips tends to play out on the right although Moore has been known to move him more central at times. Whoever Smith plays at left back will certainly have their work cut out today.
Smith was hopeful that Jack Grealish would be on the bench today but the club doctor ruled him out. Both James Chester (knee) and Tom Carroll (muscle strain) have also been ruled out.
Neil Taylor is available for selection after missing out on the defeat against Brentford.
WBA will be without top scorer Dwight Gayle. The forward was suspended for a dive in the draw against Nottingham Forest.
Matt Phillips, Hal Robson-Kanu, James Morrison and Ahmed Hegazi are all in contention after returning from injury.
The referee for today will be James Linington. He will be assisted by Mark Russell and Robert Merchant. Stephen Martin will be his fourth official.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Venue: Villa Park, Birmingham
Kick Off: 15.00
Tickets: Still available. (38,000 expected).