Of all the derbies in the West Midlands, this is the one Aston Villa supporters look forward to most, yet over the last two years, it’s been the Baggies who’ve headlined the rivalry. Though the teams have drawn their last three meetings, West Brom won the prior two, leaving them unbeaten in five against their claret and blue rivals. Whereas a few years back Villa had a persistent presence near the circuit’s Europa League spots, West Brom has now finished above Aston Villa two years in a row.
But coming into today’s match (3:00 p.m. Eastern, available live via NBC Sports Live Extra), the teams are on practically even footing. With each on 14 points, a win will vault the victors over 10th place Swansea and into the table’s top half. A draw and the teams will stay where they are: 11th and 12th place, with only one goal difference separating the clubs.
As for any Aston Villa opponent, one of West Brom’s keys will be containing Christian Benteke, even if the Belgian international has failed to score in his last four games. West Brom central defenders Gareth McAuley and Jonas Olsson will be tasked with tracking the 22-year-old sniper, who scored in the 14th minute of the teams’ last meeting in April (a 2-2 draw).
The Baggies, on the other hand, are relying on scoring by committee, with four players sharing the club’s scoring lead with two goals. Morgan Amalfitano and Stephane Sessegnon are capable of both creating and scoring goals from the level behind the striker, with England U-21 forward Saido Berahino one of quartet that’s gotten Steve Clarke multiple goals.
West Bromwich Albion: Boaz Myhill; Steven Reid, Gareth McAuley, Jonas Olsson, Goran Popov; Youssouf Mulumbu, Claudio Yacob; Morgan Amalfitano, Stephane Sessegnon, Chris Brunt; Shane Long
Aston Villa: Brad Guzan; Ron Vlaar, Ciaran Clark, Nathan Baker; Aleksandr Tonev, Karim El Ahmadi, Ashley Westwood, Yacouba Sylla, Leandro Bacuna; Christian Benteke, Libor Kozak