The Villa Appetiser: West Brom v Aston Villa 2018

After the crazy draw against Forest on Wednesday, Villa supporters were all hoping for a bit of defensive solidity against Boro.

As it happened, Villa had the perfect blend of attack and defence last Saturday, but now we face an equally difficult test away at the Hawthorns.

It’s the first meeting between the sides since January 2016.

After an improvement in recent form, Villa are now looking up at the play-off spots and are currently priced at 9/4 (William Hill) for promotion, the fifth shortest odds of any team. In terms of actually winning the league, Villa have returned to favour with their odds now at 7/1, a market that can be backed with this William Hill free bet

The match between the league’s top two highest scorers will certainly tell us a bit more about both team’s title credentials.

Form

WEST BROM

3rd in the league table with the 4th best home record.

Last five matches at home: W 2, D 2, L 1  

VILLA

8th in the league table with the 9th best away record.

Last five matches away: W 2, L 3 

Darren Moore on Smith

“We spoke a couple of weeks ago for a general chit chat. We missed the LMA course we should have been on two or three weeks ago.

“As players I don’t think we really came across each other much. That would have been an interesting contest at the far post!

“We have an unbelievable mutual respect for one another.

“He used to be manager at Walsall and the roles I played at Albion he used to come and watch a lot of our games.

“We had a real closeness and built up a rapport with him and Richard [O’Kelly].

“They’re two really good guys in the game. Really straight-talking, good people in the game. Whenever you see good people in the game you want them to do well.”

and on the derby

“Over the course of the season we have risen to occasions like this.

“While we’ve got to be professional, we understand it’s a derby, we understand the clubs are three or four miles apart.

“Players know each other well, management teams know each other well, and there’s a rivalry between fans, it all bodes well for a great game.”

Smith on Baggies clash

“It’s a big game – we’ve not played each other, certainly in this league, for a while.

“I grew up supporting Aston Villa in the 1980s and it meant a lot back then.

“It’s not been so big in recent years due to the division we’ve been playing in, while the Villa-Blues derby has re-emerged.

“There’s been some great games between ourselves and Albion, though – especially when Ron Atkinson was in charge of them in the early 80s.

“The fact we’re both going for promotion I think adds extra spice on Friday. This is our third season and Albion’s first after a period of success in the Premier League.

“They remain one of the favourites. We’re the two top goalscorers in the division. It makes for a great match on Friday.”

Smith on former Baggies coach Cutler (now GK Coach at Villa)

“He’ll certainly know how they play and I’ll tap into his knowledge on West Bromwich Albion, that’s for sure.

“He’s left on really good terms and there’s no real espionage about it, he’s just working for Aston Villa and myself now so every little advantage we can get we’ll try and take.”

and on Johnstone

“Most of the lads will know Sam from playing with him last season. I also know Sam having had him at Walsall.

“You’re always going to have those connections through local teams. I’m sure some of the lads will have been texting Sam already so it makes for a really good game.”

Memory Match

23rd Jan 2016 – West Brom 0 Villa 0 

The last time we played the Baggies was a forgettable affair as Remi Garde’s Villa side recorded a goalless draw.

Player to Watch

Harvey Barnes – the on-loan Leicester midfielder scored his eighth goal of the season on Monday night.

Embed from Getty Images

WEST BROM AND VILLA ARE THE LEAGUE’S HIGHEST SCORERS – THE BAGGIES HAVE SCORED 42 goals to Villa’s 39.

Facts to Sweep Under the Carpet

The last time we played the Baggies twice in a season, it didn’t go terribly well.

With Tim Sherwood at the helm we lost 1-0 to a Berahino goal at Villa Park back in 2015, then there was the 0-0 stalemate as mentioned in the Memory Match above. Then again, it was the ‘relegation season’.

A couple of years later we face West Brom in different circumstances with both teams vying for promotion.

Darren Moore, who very nearly managed to save the Baggies from relegation last season, has led the team to some impressive victories so far this season.

Unlike Villa after our relegation in 2016, West Brom have immediately mounted a promotion challenge – it’s another tough away game for Smith.

The history books make for ominous reading. West Brom are undefeated in their last 6 home matches against Aston Villa in all competitions, winning two, and drawing four.

While Villa are enjoying a good spell, the Baggies are in good form too. Darren Moore’s team are four unbeaten, picking up 10 points from a possible 12.

Our Friday statistics don’t make for encouraging reading either. Strangely, Villa are winless in eight away league matches played on Friday (D6 L2) since winning 2-0 win at Wrexham in 1972!

And if that wasn’t enough, we all know Johnstone is going to have a brilliant game…

“We have an unbelievable mutual respect for one another” – Moore on smith

Why Villa Have Got This Game in the Bag

After the momentum we’ve built up with recent form, there’s certainly reason for optimism ahead of Friday’s game.

Unbeaten in five games (winning four of those) while scoring plenty of goals, the signs are promising for Villa.

Villa have scored at least three goals in their last four Championship matches, thanks in part to the excellent form of Tammy Abraham, who’s scored 10 goals in 10 games.

While West Brom are the league’s top scorers, they, like Villa, have defensive issues too – they’ve managed just one clean sheet in the league this season.

As well as this, West Brom played on Monday, meaning Villa have had a couple of days extra time between games, which could be a factor.

One last thing. The Friday stats work both ways.

West Brom have lost four of their last five home league games played on Fridays…

Who knows what will happen, but it’s bound to be an entertaining game.

UTV.

The Perfect Pre-match Listening…

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