CHAMPIONSHIP specialist James O'Rourke (@JamesOR1) takes a look at Friday night's West Midlands derby match-up between West Brom and Aston Villa at The Hawthorns.
West Brom v Aston Villa | Friday 7th December 2018, 20:00 | Sky Sports
Whilst I’m fully aware that I could put the kiss of death upon this game, I would urge everyone to tune into this match on Friday night. It promises to be a humdinger of a West Midlands derby, with both sides entering it in great form and very much with promotion aspirations come the end of the season.
After a stuttering period, West Brom are starting to find their feet again. They are unbeaten in four, three of which ended in victory, but Monday’s home draw to Brentford would have felt like a loss after conceding so late. Darren Moore’s side will be eager to get back on the pitch and put that right. In terms of performance, the Albion boss was pleased with what he saw.
As for Villa, they are very much the form team in the division at this moment in time. It is impossible to ignore them at this present moment; Dean Smith is very much starting to get a tune out of his boyhood club. Quite simply, they are scoring goals for fun.
It is now five unbeaten for villa, four of which ended with three points, scoring 16 goals in the process. After getting the job done over city rivals Birmingham not so long ago, they’ll be looking to add another local scalp at The Hawthorns.
Value on Villa
It is perhaps no great surprise to see that West Brom are the slight favourites for this contest. Home advantage normally counts for a lot in terms of the market pricing up matches of this nature, between two fairly even sides, in a local derby, both of which sitting high up the table. Therefore, that means the value lies solely with the away team here.
One thing that is for sure at the minute is that Aston Villa are a team you want to be keeping firmly onside. Of course, their epic scoring run will come to an end at some stage, but they are tough to ignore right now.
Ironically, West Brom are the highest scorers in the league, and one of the highest scorers in the country, yet we are going with the opponents here because of their goalscoring form! The Championship can change in a matter of games, but the form of Villa makes them an attractive proposition on Friday.
West Brom are in good form themselves, but the worry for them is that they are conceding far too many goals. Former defender Moore will be more than aware of that. They’ve kept 5% clean sheets in the league this season – that will have to improve should they want to make the promotion spots come May.
Smith has already overseen four clean sheets during his time at Villa Park. Given all the focus is on how they attack and cause problems at this end of the pitch, they are earning plaudits down the other end too.
In their last two away games, they’ve returned from promotion hopefuls Middlesbrough and Derby with 3-0 victories.
West Brom have been involved in a series of tight matches of late. They got the job done away at Ipswich 2-1, and then earned the same score away in Swansea, before the draw to Brentford. The worry is that Villa could blow them away if they are on song, and motivation won’t be any issue for them.
As I said, the value is on Aston Villa here, and a 21/10 (Bet365) price could look very big come 9.45pm.
Chelsea loanee set to strike
A big part of Villa’s recent success is certainly Tammy Abraham. Since arriving on-loan from Chelsea, he has soon become an important part of the furniture. If they are to have an impact, not just in this game, but this season, then he will have had a big role to play in that.
You will go some way to find a striker in better form that the England Under-21 international. The 5-5 draw with Nottingham Forest was a crazy game for many reasons, but Tammy scored four of Villa’s goals than night. He has netted in each of Villa’s last four matches, resulting in seven goals.
With West Brom not known for their defensive record this season, the Baggies could find it tough to keep the youngster at bay.
It is expected that Smith’s side will dominate the possession here. West Brom have had particular joy on the counter-attack this season, so they may not concern them as much as say other clubs. However, that means the away side will get the chance to feed Abraham at source on a regular basis.
It is inevitable he is going to get a chance or two in this game. We back him to take at least one of those openings. The First Goalscorer price is obviously greater and that certainly does tempt us. However, just to play it a little safe, we’ll play Tammy to notch at anytime at 6/4 (Betway). He is in the form of his life at present, and even from his time on-loan at Bristol City, he just seems right at home at this level.