The week of the double-header has arrived. Not since the 1950s when double-headers were commonplace have Albion and Villa played each other twice in such a short space of time, and never have they done so at the same venue.
Since the draw was made, the fortunes of the clubs have continued along the established trends – upwards for the Baggies and downwards for Villa – leaving the hosts in a precarious league position.
Tim Sherwood’s appointment as manager in mid-February has failed to produce any bounce in results, although he would argue that performances have improved. The fact remains, however, that Aston Villa have scored just two league goals since Christmas and they have lost the last seven league games tumbling to 19th place in the Premier League.
In contrast, the appointment of Tony Pulis at the Hawthorns at the beginning of the year has transformed Albion’s fortunes. They have suffered just one defeat in the ten games since Pulis took charge, keeping an impressive seven clean sheets, and picking up 12 points from a possible 21 in the Premier League.
But, as we know, form always goes out of the window when it comes to local derbies..
Last week, I provided an extensive history on the meetings between Albion and Villa in the cup, but as both are founder members of the Football League, there is a rich history in that competition as well and Tuesday’s meeting will be the 142nd such game in the league.
As all Villains will tell you, they are the bigger club and they have held the upper hand in this fixture over the years, claiming 64 league wins to Albion’s 46. Away from home, the Baggies have claimed victory on only 16 out of 70 league attempts, the first of those in September 1890 being an impressive 4-0 win at Wellington Road.
The first meeting at Villa Park was in April 1899, with the hosts running out 7-1 winners but Albion then took a likeing to Villa’s new home winning on five of the next six visits up to September 1912.
I’m sure that all Baggies fans will take a repeat of the match in October 1935 when Albion legend Ginger Richardson netted four which added to goals from Jack Sankey, Jack Mahon and Stan Wood to give the visitors a record 7-0 victory. It would, however, be another 23 years before Albion won there again.
After Villa’s European Cup win in 1982, wins at Villa Park became scarce. After winning at Villa Park in May 1979 thanks to a John Trewick goal in Albion’s last championship-challenging season, they’re only win at Villa Park until 2011 was in the fifth round of the league cup in 1982 thanks to a rare goal by Derek Statham.
Wins of any sort became a rarity as Albion moved between divisions on a regular basis. After a 1-0 win the league in 1985 (Carl Valentine sitting on the ball before firing past Kevin Poole), Albion had to wait 26 years for the next win over their nearest neighbours with a 2-1 win in April 2011. Since then, however, Villa have beaten the Baggies just once (4-3 in January 2014) with two wins for Albion and four draws.
The last of those Baggies wins came in the last meeting between the sides last December when former Villain, Craig Gardner, scored the only goal of the game. The only other current Baggies players to have netted for Albion in this fixture are James Morrison, Chris Brunt and Youssuf Mulumbu, each of whom have scored twice in this fixture, and Jonas Olsson who scored the winner in Albion’s first win at Villa Park for 29 years in October 2011.
After both strikers limped off in the win over Southampton, it is up front that Albion have the biggest injury concerns. Anichebe has still not recovered from a groin strain and he remains the only striking option outside of Ideye and Berahino. Berahino may be able to play, perhaps with a pain-killing injection once again, while the club are waiting on a scan on Ideye’s knee. It is still possible that Albion might go into Tuesday night’s game with Sessègnon up front, or maybe Adil Nabe will get a chance in the first team.
For Villa, Ron Vlaar faces a late fitness test on a calf injury and it looks like Aly Cissokho and former Baggie, Kieran Richardson, are both likely to miss the league meeting at least.
I said last week that this was too close to call, and while Albion have cemented their position as the form side, it should still be a tight game. If it were possible, it could be argued that Villa would take the three points over a place in a cup final given their position in the bottom three, and Albion might be happy with that outcome as well, but I’m sure that both sides will be going for it hard in both games.
Given Villa’s inabililty to find the net and Albion’s new-found solidity, it is difficult to see Villa scoring too many, but if neither Berahino nor Ideye make the starting line-up, the same could be said about the Baggies.
I think the game will be drawn, leaving pride intact ahead of the quarter-final.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
13 Dec 2014 – Premier League
West Brom 1 (Gardner)
Aston Villa 0
Last meeting at Aston Villa
29 Jan 2014 – Premier League
Aston Villa 4 (Weimann, Bacuna, Delph, Benteke (pen))
West Brom 3 (Brunt, Delph (o.g.), Mulumbu)
Last win at Aston Villa
22 Oct 2011 – Premier League
Aston Villa 1 (Bent (pen))
West Brom 2 (Olsson, Scharner)
Albion’s Record against Aston Villa
|Premier League Record|