Aston Villa will be aiming to make it seven points from nine when they make the short trip to face Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion, who are after their third straight home win in the league.
The last Premier League outing for West Brom was a highly uncharacteristic 3-0 defeat at Southampton, where they struggled to get going from the first whistle and never looked likely to get back into the match after conceding the penalty kick that led to them going two goals down inside 35 minutes. Head Coach Tony Pulis made two attacking changes at the half-time interval, but it counted for little as his side missed the chance to move into the top half.
The Baggies are very much a team that likes to share the goals around, which is leaving Pulis with a decision to make each game as regards to who he chooses to play as the central striker. Victor Anichebe got the nod on the South coast, but they will be mindful here that the Villa defence tends to struggle more against pace, which will play to the strengths of record signing Salomon Rondon, who for all of his impressive technique needs to score more if he is to truly repay that large transfer fee.
In taking a win and a draw from difficult looking home games against Crystal Palace and high-flying Leicester City, there was a noticeable improvement in Aston Villa’s performance levels, and that has coincided with the return of two forgotten men to the fold. Aly Cissokho has given them a more orthodox presence at left-back upon returning from his loan spell at FC Porto, while Libor Kozak has shown strength and nous having made his comeback from a long injury.
While hope of staying in the Premier League still appears forlorn, there are at least positive signs for Villa and that if they do indeed go down it would not be with a whimper such as the one they have threatened for much of the season so far. This one can be expected to be hard-fought encounter unlikely to be won by a hefty margin, but after their two previous league displays, the visitors have reason to be confident of coming away with something
James Morrison is out for a lengthy period for West Brom, who have Saido Berahino back following illness. Jonas Olsson, Chris Brunt and Darren Fletcher will all be assessed.
The away side are still unable to call upon Alan Hutton and Adama Traore, while Gabriel Agbonlahor is absent with a hip injury.
Last Meeting: West Brom claimed an important three points in December 2014 as they eventually took advantage of Villa being reduced to 10 men. Kieran Richardson was the man dismissed in the first half after he lunged in on Stephane Sessegnon, and the incessant pressure that ensued was to tell on 72 minutes when Craig Gardner netted following a goalmouth scramble.
Played for both – Liam Ridgewell: A player who has spent most of his career in the Birmingham area, Ridgewell came through the Villa youth system and went on to make 79 Premier League appearances for the first-team, scoring seven goals before leaving in 2007. Five years later he was off to West Brom, where he was a regular over two seasons, scoring twice in 72 league games.
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