A midweek fixture doesn’t come around often but when it does it is like a little gift sent from above which has the ability to thrill. After the Merseyside derby yesterday between Liverpool and Everton, tonight it is the turn of the Midlands to take centre stage as West Brom make the short trip to Villa Park. The match between West Brom and Villa has been a closely fought encounter over recent years and the intensity levels amongst fans has risen to an all new high.
Villa head in to this match off the back of an impressive point against Liverpool, although having had a 2-0 lead in that match it will ultimately feel like two points dropped rather than one point gained. Paul Lambert’s side fought back earlier in the season to claim a 2-2 draw at The Hawthorns despite trailing to two Shane Long goals in the opening ten minutes. Times change, however. Shane Long has moved on to pastures new at Hull and Steve Clarke has been replaced as manager of the Baggies by Spaniard Pepe Mel.
The Villans currently find themselves in eleventh position and only six points from the drop zone but a win tonight would lift them up a place to tenth and extend that gap to nine points, while also closing the gap between ninth placed Southampton to only five points. The Baggies, on the other hand, are only four points clear of the drop zone and are going through something of a sticky patch, which has seen them go eight games without a win on their travels. The victor tonight could take a big step towards securing Premier League football for another year.
Lowton – Vlaar – Clark – Bertrand
Delph – Westwood – El Ahmadi
Weimann – Benteke
Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor is likely to miss the derby against West Brom because of the foot injury he suffered against Liverpool. Loan signing Grant Holt could start but I feel that he is more likely to be introduced from the bench, with Lambert sticking with Weimann and Benteke who got the two goals at Anfield.
Nathan Baker is available again following the concussion that he suffered at home to Arsenal a fortnight ago. Matthew Lowton will most likely be handed a recall after being dropped from the game at Anfield for turning up late to training on the Friday before the game.
Ryan Bertrand is expected to make his first start for Villa at Villa Park ahead of other left backs Antonio Luna and Joe Bennett.
West Brom striker Nicolas Anelka is expected to play despite being charged by the Football Association over his ‘quenelle’ celebration. The striker has appealed the charge but has not yet found out if he has been successful or not.
Gareth McAuley and Goran Popov are available again after recovering from their respective injuries.
Venue: Villa Park
Kick off: 7:45p.m.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Tickets: Tickets available – a crowd of around 37,000 is expected for the game.
Last meeting: Aston Villa 1-1 West Brom
Aston Villa 3-1 West Brom – @MrOMeara
Aston Villa 2-1 West Brom – Mark Lawrenson
Aston Villa 2-1 West Brom – Paul Merson