Two old foes lock horns at Villa Park.
It seems like every man and his dog have backed Aston Villa to win the Championship play-offs; are Villa as exceptional as everyone seems to believe? Or can West Brom condemn them to a fourth straight season in the second-tier?
Well, we’ll take a big step towards finding out on Saturday, as West Brom make the short trip to Villa Park for the first-leg of this fascinating tie.
The Baggies’ away form has gone down the pan for Jimmy Shan, with four defeats from their last six matches on the road; a record which is sure to leave many Villa fans licking their lips at the arrival of the Black Country side.
Momentum is so key in the play-offs, and while it feels like West Brom have been guaranteed a top six place since mid-August, Villa’s end-of-season blitz—which saw them win 10 straight matches before drawing to Leeds and losing to champions Norwich—will ensure they’re the ones with confidence at an all-time high.
The turning point in Villa’s season was undoubtedly Jack Grealish’s return from injury, and his talismanic aura has certainly galvanised the entire squad. Tammy Abraham is scoring goals, Tyrone Mings is a rock at the back and John McGinn influential in midfield – Villa are packed with quality.
West Brom have plenty of talent within their own ranks, primarily up front in the shape of Dwight Gayle and Jay Rodriguez, but they are so, so suspect at the back, conceding 62 goals in their 46 games.
First-legs are always cagey, but Villa will be too good for The Baggies on Saturday, who will hope they can turn things around at The Hawthorns on Tuesday.