Will Aston Villa be without a natural enemy next season?

Richard Heathcote

Gabby Agbonlahor insists that Aston Villa must reach 40 points before their status as a Premier League side is safe. But the six point gap - and game in hand - between Villa and 18th-placed Cardiff has a lot of Villa fans feeling much more secure. So too, of course, the comeback 4-1 victory over Norwich.

Talk to Villa fans after the Chelsea match, however, and you might get a different reaction. One that even includes that dreaded "R" word. But this Villa fan believes we're safe and, with such a belief, wonders...will there be a Premier League Midlands Derby next season?

Wolves slipped down to the Championship in 2012 and started 2013 in League One, where they're currently in first. The club everyone loves to hate, Birmingham City, have been in the second division since the start of 2011. Their fortunes are a bit Villa-like right now, sitting seven points from safety and with a game in hand.

But take heart, those who love a derby - Wolverhampton, West Brom and the Bluenoses could be giving us six of them next season - all in the Championship.

Yes, West Bromwich Albion could very well be on their way down. Currently the Baggies are avoiding the relegation zone only thanks to their superior goal difference, and a game in hand, on Cardiff. But Sunderland, who have two further games in hand and meet Crystal Palace and Norwich next, could very well send West Brom down to the bottom three.

It doesn't help, either, that Pepe Mel has yet to win a match since he's been appointed. Sure, under the Spaniard West Brom have drawn Chelsea and Liverpool, but they also lost to Palace and couldn't manage to beat Fulham. And after the 3-0 loss to Manchester United last weekend, the Baggies have just four goals from five matches.

That shouldn't be all that surprising, considering the top scorer for the side, Saido Berahino, has four goals. Four! Shane Long, who's managed three (two coming against the Villa) was sold to Hull City in January. Nicolas Anelka, with two, surely won't play again for the side. And Chris Brunt, also with two, will now miss up to six weeks with a knee injury.

Brunt has assisted in five of his side's 31 goals, so now West Brom's hill just got a bit steeper. The kings of the draw - they have 13 from 28 games - must find a way to get three points, or it's almost certain that they'll go down. But how?

The Baggies have what looks to be a light schedule coming up: games at Swansea, Hull and Norwich, as well as playing host to Cardiff. But with all those sides also intent on avoiding relegation, finding wins won't be simple. And a look at the reverse fixtures shows that West Brom earned exactly one point from those games earlier in the season.

Then come games against Spurs, Manchester City, West Ham and Arsenal before the Albion finish off the season hosting Stoke. Surprisingly, this might be their best chance at collecting points. West Brom managed draws with all but City, with whom put up a real fight at the end of their match back in December.

Still, it's tough to see Villa's rivals managing to put up enough of a fight to stay safe. They've managed just one multiple-goal game in their ten matches of 2014 (Villa have three such games, by the way, whoo-hoo) and have conceded in all but one (TWO clean sheets for Villa!). The Baggies are going to have to go all out if they want to secure survival, but will even that be enough?

The Championship could very well see a series of West Midlands derbies next season. But let's hope Villa keep their focus, because there won't be much joy in making fun of our rivals if we're watching the Championship as well.

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