Aston Villa looks to move back into the top six on Friday night when they travel to third place West Bromwich Albion in the English Championship.
The Hawthorns, Sandwell, England
Key Stat: West Brom have just one win in their last four home matches, but it was a thumping 4-1 win over Leeds.
Expert Verdict: West Brom's home form has been a little bit unpredictable of late, and that makes calling his match particularly tough as a result. The Baggies have drawn twice, lost once, and won once in the last four at The Hawthorns, but the win did come against an extremely good Leeds side that are above them in the table. So anything is possible. Villa haven't had the best of times away, but have thrashed opposition of late on the road. With both hard to call, a draw looks a good bet.
Darren Moore looks set to have a full side to pick from for this match as his side look to remain in the battle for the automatic promotion places.
On-loan Leicester City winger Harvey Barnes has proven a smart signing by the Baggies so far, with him picking up eight goals and three assists so far from out on the wing. The man he is helping supply is Dwight Gayle, who has always been a sharpshooter in the Championship. The Englishman has scored nine times already and came off the bench against Brentford, meaning he should be plenty sharp for this affair.
West Brom have a draw, three wins, and a loss in their last five matches:
* 1-1 home draw vs Brentford
* 1-2 win at Swansea
* 1-2 win at Ipswich
* 4-1 home win vs Leeds United
* 1-0 loss at Hull City
Defenders:Adarabioyo, Dawson, Hegazi, Gibbs
Midfielders:Philips, Livermore, Morrison, Barnes
Dean Smith also has a full team to pick from here, and he will be hoping that continues given that the festive season is about to begin and the games will be ramping up.
Much like Gayle has been in the Championship, so, too, has Tammy Abraham in his short stays in the division so far. After being a real weapon at Bristol City, his time at Swansea in the Premier League didn’t go so well. But he has returned to the Championship and already has 11 goals to his name for Villa. In midfield, Conor Hourihane has been showing his class this term, racking up six assists already and bringing all-around good play to the engine room for his side.
Villa have four wins and a draw in their last five matches:
* 0-3 win at Middlesbrough
* 5-5 home draw vs Nottingham Forest
* 4-2 home win vs Birmingham City
* 0-3 win at Derby County
* 2-0 home win vs Bolton
Defenders:El Mohamady, Tuanzebe, Chester, Taylor
Midfielders:El Ghazi, McGinn, Hourihane, Bolasie
Remarkably, this will be the first ever meeting between Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion outside of the top flight of English football. They have met 113 times before, yet they have never played against each other in the Championship. So far, Villa lead the series with 48 wins, 28 draws, and 37 losses to the Baggies. Here's a look at the last five results:
Jan 23, 2016: WBA 0-0 Villa (Prem)
Sep 19, 2015: Villa 0-1 WBA (Prem)
Mar 7, 2015: Villa 2-0 WBA (FA Cup)
Mar 3, 2015: Villa 2-1 WBA (Prem)
Dec 13, 2014: WBA 1-0 Villa (Prem)
Bet365 have the following odds available for this match:
West Bromwich Albion are at 6/5 to win, a draw is at 5/2, and an Aston Villa win is at 21/10.
Ahead of this match, which will kick off round 21 in the Championship, both teams are in position to challenge for promotion. The home side are in better shape, sitting third at the start of play on 35 points. They are four off the back of Leeds for the second automatic promotion place, but a win here could get them to within one before the Whites kick off later in the weekend. Aston Villa, meanwhile, are in eighth place as things sit on 31 points. They are three off the pace of a number of teams, and a win would see them draw level with them for at least a little while. A loss, though could see them fall off the pace and lose touch a little bit.
At home, the Baggies have had the fourth best record in the Championship so far, producing six wins and two draws in eight outings. They have suffered some stuttering form of late at The Hawthorns, though, with two draws and a loss all occurring in the last four games alone. That will have to be improved if they are to keep up their top two challenge. Villa’s away record has been fairly average thus far. They rank ninth in the division and have 12 points from ten matches. It’s not an awful record, but it’s also not the greatest and doesn’t make you think they are guaranteed for success in this match up. On the bright side, they have two wins in a row after dropping the three games before.
Gayle and Abraham are each at 2.25 odds to score anytime via Betfair.
Ladbrokes have both teams scoring, as each has done in nine of the last ten games, at ½.
Neither team looks like huge favorites in this match, and it should go right down to the wire. Both teams would love a win, but they’d both prefer not to lose, so a draw looks the most likely thing.