It’s getting to that part of the season where the threat of an early holiday is apparent for Aston Villa. Dean Smith will be doing everything he can to prevent this season from dying out, however, the Villans are currently 16th in the Premier League form table, having only won 2 games out of their last 10.
At the other end of the table, things could not be more different for West Bromwich Albion who are desperately fighting for their right to stay in the Premier League. Being a midlands derby, there is always going to be an added edge to the game. Additionally, Sam Allardyce will be seeing this game as a cup final for his side, especially given the form of the hosts going into the game. Allardyce also has an impressive record against the Villans, winning 9 out of 24 fixtures and only beating Newcastle (13) and Tottenham (11) more.
Villa will be looking to complete their first league double over the Baggies since 2008/09, but what can they expect from their Midlands counterpart on Sunday?
Let’s look at the stats
It is no surprise to see West Brom sat in 19th place in the league as the data shows why they have found life back in the top flight so difficult.
West Brom currently have an expected goals of 26, which is the second lowest in the league. Only Crystal Palace have a lower expected goals with 24.2. However, where Palace have an expected goals against of 47.9, the Baggies have an expected goals against of 55, which is comfortably the highest in the league.
Allardyce will be deeply dissatisfied by this as he likes to build his team up from the defense forward with a key aspect of his tactics being clean sheets.
At the top end of the pitch, West Brom have had 268 shots this season compared to Aston Villa’s 413. This works out as 8.37 shots per game for Albion (Only above Sheffield United’s 8.25) while Villa are averaging 13.32 shots per game. Averaging an extra 5 shots per game is going to provide Villa with a much better chance of finding the back of the net compared to West Brom.
At the other end of the pitch, West Brom have made 569 blocks this season in which is the highest in the league. While this may initially seem like an impressive stat for a team that is defending well and not allowing the opposition past them, it also emphasizes how Albion are allowing their opponents more attacking chances than most other teams.
With West Brom having to complete the highest number of blocks in the league, this shows us that they are resorting to last ditch defending very often in order to stop the opposition. A team like Manchester City have only completed 364 blocks this season due to them having such a high amount of possession and therefore limiting the opportunity for their opponents to create chances.
Sam Johnstone has been forced into making 128 saves this season - the highest tally in the league. This data suggests that the defense in front of the Englishman are not providing the level of cover he would desire. While Johnstone is doing all he can to keep the opposition out, even his 128 saves aren’t enough to increase West Brom’s clean sheet percentage of only 18.8%.
The last three fixtures between Aston Villa and West Brom have seen the Baggies reduced to 10 men, including both play-off fixtures as well as Villa’s 3–0 victory over Albion back in December. The reverse fixture was the start of a run whereby Villa have won their last three games against newly promoted sides (West Brom, Leeds, and Fulham).
Villa will also favor the match being played on a Sunday as they have won 5 out of their 8 Sunday fixtures this season, which is the same amount as their previous 44 top flight Sunday fixtures. However, West Brom have only won one of their last 17 Sunday Premier League matches. In addition to this, Watkins has enjoyed playing on Sunday’s this season with the England international scoring 7 of his 12 Premier League goals on a Sunday.
Aston Villa will continue to fight on without Jack Grealish as Dean Smith has now refused to put a return date on his captain.
Villa will also be without Matty Cash following his dismissal in Villa’s previous fixture against Manchester City, with Ahmed Elmohamady likely to fill in.
The likes of Morgan Sanson and Trezeguet will also miss the action on Sunday, which could see Anwar El Ghazi in the starting line up. El Ghazi has enjoyed playing against West Brom, having scored more goals against Sunday’s opposition than any other side since his move to England - although all of his goals against the Baggies have come at the Hawthornes.
Dean Smith has, however, revealed that Brazilian forward, Wesley, will be back in contention for a place in the squad on Sunday.
West Brom remain without Branislav Ivanovic and Robert Snodgrass for the game on Sunday.
Who do you think should start for Aston Villa against West Brom? Fill in the form below and we will announce a Fans XI ahead of the game!