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.

Premier League vet Kenwyne Jones retires at age 33

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It wasn’t the season that Kenwyne Jones had expected in his first Major League Soccer season, but the veteran Trinidad & Tobago striker had himself quite the career.

[ MORE: Miguel Almiron wins MLS Newcomer of the Year ]

Jones, 33, announced his retirement on Monday after boasting an extensive career in England prior to finishing up his playing with Atlanta United.

Atlanta opted not to renew Jones’ contract with the club after scoring twice in 17 appearances this season for the expansion side.

The Trinidadian posted the following message to supporters on Twitter this afternoon.

Jones spent nine seasons in the Premier League, including stints with Southampton, Stoke City and Sunderland.

Additionally, the forward played for Al Jazira from UAE in 2016 before moving on loan to Central in his native Trinidad prior to his arrival in Atlanta’s debut MLS season.

Eibar routs Betis 5-0 to snap 8-game winless streak in Spain

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MADRID (AP) Eibar routed 10-man Real Betis 5-0 in the Spanish league on Monday, ending an eight-match winless streak in all competitions.

Eibar hadn’t won since Sept. 15. It had lost six of its eight matches since then.

[ MORE: Brighton, Stoke finish level after Izquierdo’s second-half finish ]

The hosts got on the board with an own goal by Betis defender Jordi Amat just six minutes in, and midfielder Gonzalo Escalante scored with a header near halftime.

Striker Charles Dias scored twice in the second half, and Sergi Enrich closed the scoring in front of less than 5,000 fans at Ipurua Stadium.

“We deserved a victory like this to help us regain our confidence,” Enrich said.

Betis played with 10 men from the 55th as Aissa Mandi was red-carded for the foul that prompted a penalty kick converted by Dias.

“It was difficult to recover after we went a man down and they scored the third goal,” Betis midfielder Joaquin Sanchez said.

Eibar remained 17th in the 20-team standings, just outside the relegation zone.

Betis, winless in three matches, dropped to ninth place.

Barcelona leads by four points over second-place Valencia.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Pogba believes Man United can win Premier League if squad stays fit

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There’s no doubt that on paper Manchester United has all the workings of a Premier League contender, and Paul Pogba certainly agrees.

[ MORE: Brighton, Stoke settle for draw in back-and-forth affair ]

The influential midfielder made his return to the Red Devils lineup this weekend in United’s 4-1 beatdown of Newcastle, along with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo.

With Jose Mourinho’s squad finally getting healthy, Pogba believes that the sky is the limit for his side as they look to chase down league leaders and cross-town rivals Manchester City.

“To win the league we need all our players,” Pogba told MUTV. “When you have one injured here, one injured there, it doesn’t help. It’s always better to have a full team.

“Zlatan’s back and Marcos after a long injury. It was hard for them but they kept believing and worked hard to come back. We need them to win the league and we’re really glad they’re here.”

Pogba’s presence was certainly missed in his absence, and he wasted no time in making an impact upon his return, scoring a goal and adding an assist against the Magpies.

The French international also spoke about his struggles last season with several minor injuries, but he’s hoping to remain in his United side for the rest of the 2017/18 campaign.

“Most of last season I had injuries but small ones. You just have to recover well because the Premier League is different to Italy — it’s more intense and you just have to think about recovery, then you have more games. Otherwise, I just feel good, just to come back.

“I’ve trained very hard to come back fit. The season is really long so we have to be fit — not only me but all the players. To come back, to play again, to see Old Trafford, to see the fans again, to score at Old Trafford on my comeback, I feel blessed. But we had to win — that was the most important thing.”

Red Bulls freestyler shows off dribbling skills… on a treadmill (Video)

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Players from around the world display their skills on social media on a regular basis, but they’re usually on a soccer field or blacktop when they do so.

[ MORE: Almiron wins MLS Newcomer of the Year, beats out Nikolic, Martinez ]

This New York Red Bulls freestyler had a different interpretation of how he’d show off his ball control on Monday.

DJ Diveny (@djdiveny on Twitter) posted this video — below — across his social media platforms today dribbling a soccer ball on a treadmill, while his colleagues appear to introduce cones at random points as obstacles.

In addition to his talents as a freestyler, Diveny is also a youth coach with Student Athlete Coaching & Consulting, based out of New Jersey.

Again… he’s on a treadmill while doing this. Pretty cool stuff.

Watch below.