West Bromwich – Aston Villa (Premier League)
Monday night has in store what should be an entertaining match – a Midlands derby. With the two teams with the same points total and separated only by a goal, West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa sit in a comfortable 10th and 11th, respectively. Free from the pressure of the relegation battle, they will probably be able to offer a quality match with several interesting players to follow.
West Brom started off in stuttering form, not unlike their opponents, but have collected 12 points from their last 7 matches, including of course a 2-2 draw at Chelsea that must have felt like a defeat, after a much contested penalty decision from the referee. Despite the 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Liverpool back in late October, Steve Clarke’s men have been getting some good results, including the Stamford Bridge match, a home draw against Arsenal and a 2-1 win in Old Trafford. Furthermore, West Brom have drawn a clear line between home and away form, with a 40% winning percentage whenever they play in front of their crowd. The exciting Saido Berahino has been grabbing quite a few headlines as of late, banging in goals from all angles. The Baggies remain undefeated in their last five meetings with Villa. The home team will likely miss Nicolas Anelka and Scott Sinclair.
Probable line-up: Myhill – Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell – Yacob, Mulumbu – Amalfitano, Sessegnon, Brunt – Long
As far as Aston Villa are concerned, there’s no doubt as to the talent they boast within their squad, such as Matt Lowton, Ciaran Clark, Christian Benteke, among many others. After a rough start to the season, Villa are looking more and more like their better selves, particularly away from Villa Park, where they have struggled to get good results. Paul Lambert will surely be looking to Monday night’s match as the lynchpin to keep the ball rolling and dodge any scares come May. The team, laden with – often inexperienced – youths, seem to have finally found a solution for their defensive problems, after a 26-match string without a clean sheet, and have not conceded any goals in four of the last seven fixtures. Christian Benteke is in doubt after picking an injury while playing for Belgium, but his inclusion may prove all too necessary to allow him to recover on the bench. Despite four goals in as many matches at the start of the season, Benteke now finds himself in the middle of a five-match goal drought, one that Villa fans hope will end next Monday night. Besides the aforementioned Benteke, Villa still have some fitness doubts regarding Antonio Luna and Weimann.
Probable line-up: Guzan – Lowton, Okore, Vlaar, Luna – Westwood, Delph, Bacuna – Weiman, ,Benteke, Agbonlahor
West Brom are unbeaten in the last five matches against Aston Villa, who wasted a 2-0 lead last season at The Hawthorns. Having said that, none of the last 14 matches between these two teams was won by more than a one-goal margin, which points to a closely fought encounter. While it’s true that Lambert’s Villa have not scored in four of their last five fixtures, their three clean sheets in those same games should be reason enough for Steve Clarke to believe this match will not be won without a fight.