West Bromwich Albion v Aston Villa - Premier League

Premier League Preview: West Bromwich Albion vs. Aston Villa

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  • The 14 Premier League fixtures between the sides have ended either as draws or 2-1 victories
  • West Brom have lost just one of their last 8 PL games (W3, D4, L1)
  • Villa has the best defense away from home in the PL, conceding just 3 times

Separated by just four miles, this two Black Country rivals are both in good form as a Midlands derby will heat up the chilly confides on the Hawthorns on Monday.

In fact, this battle couldn’t be closer as only one goal separates the two sides after an almost identical start to the season.

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The Baggies come off the back of that controversial point at Chelsea after they thought a famous win was secured, only for the Blues to be handed a last-gasp penalty that referees chief Mike Riley has since apologized for. WBA are in good form after their early struggles and have not lost to Villa in their last five meetings. Steve Clarke’s side can move into the top half with a win.

But the same can be said for Villa, as their young side sit just one place below West Brom and level on points with the Baggies.

Last time out the Villans beat Cardiff City 2-0 at home and have found a way to grind out results with some solid defensive displays marshaled by USMNT ‘keeper Brad Guzan. Villa have recorded four shutouts in their last seven games… before that they hadn’t managed to keep a clean sheet in 26 PL matches.

In terms of injury news, West Brom welcome back Nicolas Anelka after he missed their draw with Chelsea, while Scott Sinclair could return from a hamstring strain but a similar problem keeps Billy Jones out.

Aston Villa are facing late fitness concerns over strikers Christian Benteke and Andreas Weimann, while Ciaran Clark, Fabian Delph and Antonio Luna are fully fit.

What they’re saying

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert on the derby rivalry: “I think a derby game can throw up anything. Nobody knows what’s going to happen. Everyone knows a derby is important for supporters, first and foremost. For the team and the football club it’s vital to try to win a derby game. I have been involved in two West Brom v Villa derbies now too. I know the atmosphere will be there. You can see it’s a great game to play in.”

WBA boss Steve Clarke on what to expect: “It’s a West Midlands derby – the only West Midlands derby in the Premier League this season because, unfortunately, some of the other teams have dropped out. It’s a big game. We understand what it means to our supporters. I’m sure the Villa people know what it means to their supporters. We’ve got the Monday night all to ourselves, the whole country can watch if they want, and hopefully we put on a good spectacle.”

Prediction

I think this will follow last years lead and be an enthralling encounter. It may not have all the goals and drama of the Merseyside derby on Saturday but these two teams are fierce rivals and both sets fans will make the Hawthorns a cacophony of noise on Monday. If Villa score early, they will invited West Brom to attack and that should make the game a terrific spectacle. Who am I going for? Well, both teams are so even and separated by just one goal in the standings… I’m going for a home win to the Baggies.

Ronaldo shows no sign of injury while hanging with Conor McGregor

instagram.com/cristiano/
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Cristiano Ronaldo may not be ready for the UEFA Super Cup, but he’s no longer limping around.

To explore the Real Madrid superstar’s Instagram is to see Ronaldo, sometimes clothed, hanging out with celebrities.

In the last couple weeks we’ve seen him with Eva Longoria, Jennifer Lopez, and now his “bro” Conor McGregor.

[ MORE: Who wins the League of Hate? ]

Wait, what?

Yeah, Ronaldo is friends with the MMA star, and showed no ill form (and no brace of any kind) in several posed photos with McGregor.

Although admittedly, McGregor’s IG game is a bit better: The Irish fighter posted a photo of himself sunning in his briefs with the caption, “I’m gonna get him on the Forbes list by next year. But I’m gonna get him on the tan by next week.”

Good luck with both, bro.

Great to see you bro!!💪🏽🔝

A photo posted by Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano) on Jul 24, 2016 at 3:48pm PD

Bruce pens letter to Hull fans: “Desperately wanted to make it work”

YORK, ENGLAND - JULY 23: Steve Bruce manager of  Hull City ahead of the pre-season friendly match between York City and Hull City at Bootham Cresent on July 23, 2014  in York, England. (Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)
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Many Hull City fans didn’t want Steve Bruce to leave the club, and this open letter shows why.

After leaving the club by “mutual consent” on Friday — it was first widely reported that he quit — fans protested at Hull’s game on Monday.

[ MORE: Who wins the League of Hate? ]

Bruce may’ve had his problems with Hull’s ownership, but he certainly got his supporters’ feelings right down to the core.

From the Hull Daily Mail:

My biggest regret is having to walk away but it was a decision I had to make for the sake of the club. The last 12 months have been very tough and it felt like the right step for the club to move forward in a different direction and with someone else in charge.

I desperately wanted to make it work this summer and be a Premier League manager again but, sadly, it wasn’t to be. Nevertheless, I’ve left Hull City with some fantastic memories that I’ll always cherish, including just eight weeks ago in the Championship play-off final at Wembley.

Class from the longtime boss, and we imagine he’ll have a job very soon if he wants it.

Report: Everton to activate release clause of Stoke’s Arnautovic

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28: Marko Arnautovic (1st L) of Stoke City competes for the ball against Seamus Coleman (2nd L) and Gareth Barry (1st Rof Everton during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Stoke City at Goodison Park on December 28, 2015 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images)
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Everton is going to activate Marko Arnautovic‘s $16 million release clause to bring the Stoke City striker to Goodison Park, according to a report out of Austria.

Stoke had been trying to sign Arnautovic to a contract extension, but the player was reportedly prepared to play out the final year of his deal.

[ MORE: Who wins the League of Hate? ]

The huge 27-year-old Austrian has been with Stoke since 2013, and broke through with 11 Premier League goals last season.

Arnautovic would give Everton support behind Romelu Lukaku, and insurance in case the Toffees do wind up selling their Belgian striker. Everton also has Arouna Kone as a potential target forward, but Oumar Niasse is expecting to leave after less than a year at Goodison Park.

Chelsea wins the League… of Hate; Bournemouth, Leicester not hated

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27:  Diego Costa of Chelsea celebrates his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Chelsea at St Mary's Stadium on February 27, 2016 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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A family of English newspapers conducted its annual survey of which teams are the most hated in the Premier League, and there’s a new champion.

Manchester United has dropped to second in the table to Chelsea in what the Manchester Evening News called the “League of Hate”.

[ MORE: Rooney’s England position not set ]

According to the MEN, 10,000 fans were quizzed on their love and hate:

A national survey asked fans of each top flight club which sides they hate, and which they love, and the west London club came out as the most disliked club overall.

United, who won the dubious accolade last year, have been revealed to be the next most reviled side.

It’s no surprise that the league’s more successful sides sit atop the table while newer PL clubs like Bournemouth and Burnley are not reviled. That said, Leicester’s dream story has them 19th. How much more success do they need to have before shooting up the hate table?

Here’s the Top Five, and all results:

1) Chelsea
2) Manchester United
3) Liverpool
4) Manchester City
5) Arsenal