West Brom v Aston Villa 2016
Amidst the desperation of a relegation battle, Villa fans have cried out for a bit of luck. Weirdly, it seems that we might finally be getting some. Bunn’s penalty save. A surprisingly hassle-free scoreline against Wycombe (although the match itself had some worrying moments). Palace’s goalkeeper clanger. Add this to the generally improved performances from Villa and there remains a sense that survival isn’t impossible. Still, Pulis’ teams are annoyingly solid, and with decent home form, the Baggies will be confident of the bragging rights. It’s a difficult one to call…
Villa have taken just TWO points from the last 10 league away games
Pulis on Villa/Garde
“Villa’s a massive football club and it’s a massive job there. But we’ve all got massive clubs and we’ve all got jobs to do.
“It’s tough. He’ll understand it. It’s his first time in England (as a manager). He’ll get to know the rigours and it’s different to most probably anything he’s experienced.
“But I’m not concerned about other people and clubs.
“We’ll obviously look at their strengths and weaknesses, but we’re more concerned about what we do and how we prepare.”
Garde on Saturday’s clash
“I was born in Lyon. I played derbies for 20 years. I know what it’s all about.
“I understand English derbies too. When I signed my contract at Arsenal I was told about the North London derby.
“If you look at the last two games you can see my players are aware of fighting. Football is not always about fighting, though. So many people, like me like this league for it’s physical nature but you have to be careful not to take it too far.
“We need our supporters when we play away. Villa supporters are fantastic away. It’s a warm support which is a nice feeling. I just want that all supporters feel we’re giving our all for 90 minutes on the pitch. That’s what matters.”
13 Dec 2014 West Brom 1 Aston Villa 0
The other Gardner scored the winner after Richardson was sent off in the 22nd minute.
West Brom – Last five matches at home: W 2, D 2, L 1
Villa – Last five matches away: D 2, L 3
Villa have failed to win during the last five league visits to the Hawthorns.
One to Watch
Salomón Rondón – The Baggies’ record signing has impressed while the Berahino speculation drags on.
Facts to Sweep Under the Carpet
Historically the Baggies have struggled against Villa, but recent history is a little worrying – they’ve won two of the last three league meetings.
Exciting come-backs (from both teams!) in recent years have probably distracted many from the fact that it’s been a while since we took three points at the Hawthorns. The Baggies are unbeaten in their last five league home games against Villa.
In their last match in the league, West Brom lost 3-0 to Southampton, a result that contradicts the general sturdiness of the Baggies under Pulis. Before that however, they picked up some good wins against Newcastle and Stoke at home, and sitting in 13th place in the league, relegation worries are practically nonexistent.
Despite a slight upturn in performance Villa have taken just TWO points from the last 10 league away games, and while form tends to go out of the window in derby games, it looks a tough fixture on paper.
What We Pray the Football Gods Will Provide
A 1-0 win against Palace and a 1-1 draw with Leicester. Good results admittedly, but it’s clear to see we need to start scoring more.
Look through Villa’s history books and you’ll see that all seven of Villa’s league wins against the Baggies have been by a one goal margin. Bizarrely, six of these were 2-1!
With this and Villa’s defensive frailties in mind, Villa will need to be on the front foot. We can’t afford to concede early on, as we seem to do so often.
The Baggies also tend to win by slim margins, and their four wins in this fixture have been by a one goal margin.
It’s not unexpected in the cagey atmosphere of a derby match that such fine margins are present. If Villa do bag an early goal, it will be important to keep going. No more 94th minute Sinclair substitutions please Remi!
Also, we talked about Villa’s recent luck, but discipline could be an issue in a fiery Midlands clash – particularly as designated ref Robert Madley has awarded 10 penalties in 15 league games this season (the most in the league).
Remember Richardson’s sending off last season? Hopefully Villa remain calm.
“I just want that all supporters feel we’re giving our all for 90 minutes on the pitch. That’s what matters.” – Garde on team performance
Why Villa Have Got This Game in the Bag
Heading to a ground where we haven’t won in a while, against a team with good home form, it looks like a difficult task for Villa.
West Brom have quietly avoided the slog of another relegation battle, sitting comfortably in mid-table to prove it – but this could work in our favour.
Pulis will not under-estimate Villa – he lost to us twice in quick succession last season. But with Villa in desperate need for three points it might just be that Remi’s new-look grafters seize the initiative.
By new-look I don’t mean Remi has a batch of new transfer acquisitions at his disposal. Work permits simply wouldn’t allow that. But it does seem Garde has settled on a hard-working starting XI that have put in some good performances.
Historical form against Villa aside, the Baggies aren’t too much of an attacking threat either. On three match occasions in the league this season, the Baggies have failed to attempt a single shot on target – more occurrences than any other side.
There’s no time to drop points from any more ‘must-win’ games. Win and relegation may be avoidable. Lose and the defeatist attitude of Villa’s board will be, regrettably, justified.
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