West Brom v Aston Villa: Visitors to edge entertaining encounter

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CHAMPIONSHIP specialist James O'Rourke (@JamesOR1) shares his thoughts on Tuesday night's play-off semi-final second leg showdown between West Brom and Aston Villa.

West Brom v Aston Villa | Tuesday 14th May 2019, 20:00 | Sky Sports

Saturday’s clash at Villa Park had pretty much everything. A come from behind win, a penalty and a red card were just some of the many events which occurred in this West Midlands Derby. They do battle again on Tuesday night as they look to secure a trip to the capital and to Wembley.

Dean Smith’s men have the advantage, taking a 2-1 lead to The Hawthorns. Smith surprised some by decided to select Glenn Whelan as the midfield anchor instead of the more offensively mined Conor Hourihane. It was Whelan’s error which ultimately led to Dwight Gayle putting the visitors in front, before Hourihane was introduced in the second half and scored a fine equalising goal.

Team news is also key in the Baggies camp too. A red card to Gayle means that with Hal Robson-Kanu serving a ban of his own, Jay Rodriguez is the only senior striker available to James Shan. This is highly likely to trigger a formation change, probably to a 4-3-3. There are also doubts over Craig Dawson and loanee Stefan Johansen, after both were forced off at the weekend.

West Brom taking an early lead on Saturday almost forced them into playing quite a defensive game from there on in. They would sit back and invite pressure, with Aston Villa producing several 18-yard box entries as the match progressed. However, Shan highlighted the fact that is was ultimately a goal from outside the box and a penalty which saw the hosts score, so West Brom on the whole defended quite well.

The difference now is that at home, and with a deficit to overcome, they’ll have to take the game to Villa. Although not necessarily right away, they’ll no doubt be aware of the sort of damage The Villains can do down the other end.

Second-guessing the approach

We ultimately have to picture how we believe this second leg will go before determining what sort of selections we’re going to go with. The way I see it is that Villa can essentially do to WBA what WBA did to them in the first leg. Smith won’t be too unhappy to see his side sit back to a degree and play a counter attacking style. Gaps would surely open up at some point, especially with the greater need of Shan’s team to find the back of the net, ideally first.

However, a big amount of pressure is placed upon the feet of Rodriguez given the other offensive absences. Don’t be surprised to see Smith give Tyrone Mings the job of keeping his particular quiet. Shan will surely change system too, which isn’t ideal, but they’d be switching to a shape they’ve played before. It could be later on in the match where West Brom have the biggest problems, as Shan will look towards his bench and see limited options.

Baggies to provide attacking punch

West Brom will have a go in this one, of course. I can see them applying enough pressure to find the back of the net, possibly via a set-piece. This is where the likes of Kyle Bartley and Ahmed Hegazi take centre stage.

Whilst West Brom didn’t create that many chances on Saturday, they still scored. Villa fired many, many more shots on goal and only managed to net one extra. If Villa are put under pressure enough at the back, I can see them struggling.

Nerves will likely play a part too. Let’s not forget, Villa only have 26% clean sheets in the league this season. Only four in their last 13 away have them shut the opposition out, one of which was Bolton.

For all that being without Gayle will hurt West Brom, it won’t stop them creating openings. Rodriguez only has two goals less than his regular strike partner. The big issue however is that Harvey Barnes is still their third-highest scorer, and he returned to Leicester quite a while ago now. Others have chipped in, and there is a space for a hero on Tuesday night. WBA have scored an average of three goals per game in their last five at home, although Swansea was the strongest opposition out of all of those.

Villa can make their mark

WBA only have a 20% clean sheet record themselves in the Championship, and given how the first leg went, we just cannot see a situation where Villa fails to score here. The only way is if they completely sit back, and they’ve got too much offensive talent to do so. With the likes of Jack Grealish and John McGinn on the pitch, they can cause plenty of damage. WBA have only failed to score in 4% of their home matches, so we’ll take our chances on them netting again.

However, if we see Villa scoring again, that really means we’re expecting Villa to be taking their spot at Wembley. Expecting West Brom to score a minimum of three goals could be asking a lot given their likely team selection problems.

Therefore, we’re happy to give a play on Both Teams To Score and Aston Villa To Qualify. This is a 6/5 (Bet365) shot using the bet builder.

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West Brom v Aston Villa – Both Teams To Score and Aston Villa To Qualify (6/5 Bet365)

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