Forget about Blues v Villa or Wolves v the Baggies this is the true West Midlands derby. This game is one for the traditionalists, both teams having for a long time competed to be top dogs in the Midlands. However, West Brom have been in the doldrums in more recent times and not able to keep up with their near neighbours. It has been 25 years since the Baggies last beat Villa in the league and the long suffering fans have had to put up with so much grief in that time from some of the more arrogant Villa fans. Although for a club of Villa’s stature the fans must surely be disappointed that they have spent the last 14 years trophy less. At the moment the Baggies are riding highest of the four Midlands teams and Villa are just above the relegation zone so Albion fans will be hoping that there has been a shift in the balance of power and that it is West Brom that will now be challenging for Europe and that Villa will be in a fight against relegation. It is quite an amazing decline at Villa Park this season but the seeds of their fate were sown by Martin O’Neill’s failure in his years in charge. The Irishman wasted the resources he had at his disposal, freezing out players, playing people out of position and spending millions on the likes of Curtis Davies. Randy Lerner’s money certainly could have been used better.
t West Brom every penny spent is carefully researched and the club has been built up on making the most of what it has. This afternoon’s game is viewed by most Baggies fans as a yardstick to how far they have come and a win at Villa Park may confirm to some that they are now the best team in the West Midlands and not Villa.
Thoughts of Chris Brunt
‘We are going there with some confidence, probably more than we have had going into a derby in a couple of seasons, and it’s a game we’re looking forward to.
I think we owe Villa a couple from the last time we were up here and hopefully it will be an exciting game.
I think it has a little bit extra, but nothing major. It’s just another game.
We’re going pretty well at the moment so we’re looking to pick up points wherever we can and keep our run going.
We had two good wins, one at Everton and one against Newcastle, and we will be looking to build a little run like we did at the start of the season.
A lot of people will probably say it’s a good time to play Villa but in a local derby you never know.
The first time we played Villa two years ago we had had a couple of decent results and Villa beat us at The Hawthorns.
Then going into the game at Villa Park we were on a pretty bad run.
It’s nice to be going into this game with confidence and we are confident we can win the game.
But this is a local derby and you can’t take anything for granted.
You have to block everything out from the two sets of fans and just play your own game – and we have done that so far this season.
Hopefully it will hold us in good stead.’
Aston Villa Team News:
Ashley Young is available after suspension. Emile Heskey (knee), Barry Bannan (groin), Habib Beye (ankle) and Carlos Cuellar (calf) have all been declared fit. The game is likely to come too soon for Nigel Reo-Coker, who has just returned to full training. Steve Sidwell (Achilles) and Stiliyan Petrov (knee) are both out. Agbhonlahor and Luke Young are also likely to miss out with injury.
Player to watch: Ashley Young
How well Young does will depend on how strong the referee is. The Villa forward struggles to stay on his feet after the lightest of touches and his ability to win free kicks around the box could prove crucial.
West Brom Team News:
Albion have worries over Brunt and Odemwingie but both should be fit. Mulumbu will be available again after suspension and he is likely to replace Tchoyi. Otherwise, West Brom will remain unchanged from the Newcastle game.
Player to watch: Peter Odemwingie
If Odemwingie plays his pace and movement will surely be a big test for a Villa defence that has struggled in recent weeks.
Match Facts & Stats
Form Guide in the last 6 matches.
Mark Halsey takes charge of the game and he has proven to be one of the more lenient referees this season having issued 34 yellow cards and 1 red card in his 14 games in charge.
2-1 to the Baggies.
Another derby is up next with a home game against Wolves on Sunday 19th.