It has been suggested that with Villa all but safe, caretaker manager Gary McAllister could experiment with a little squad rotation, however the words ‘all but’ are significant and I don’t see too many changes being made. Manager Gerard Houllier was released from hospital late last night but as confirmed last week, will take a back seat for the rest of the season as he recovers from his heart problems. Villa have recalled Barry Bannan from his somewhat disappointing, in terms of opportunities, loan spell with Leeds and slots straight back in to the squad making the short trip to the Hawthorns. McAllister has hinted that Michael Bradley could yet earn a permanent deal which would suggest he could be involved between now and the end of the season but a long awaited return to form of Stiliyan Petrov and consistent displays from Nigel Reo-Coker are keeping out fellow signing Jean Makoun. The likes of Ciaran Clark and Marc Albrighton who impressed in the first half of the season will be hoping for a recall along with Gabby Agbonlahor who has been kept out by Emile Heskey in the last two games.
So Aston Villa have no injuries other than that of Stephen Ireland, who returns from Newcastle after picking up an injury that will keep him out for the rest of the season. Fabian Delph is fit once again but a result of any kind against a rejuvenated West Brom side under Roy Hodgson could see the younger players given a chance in the final 3 games. The added incentive of a derby fixture will mean that McAllister will stick rather than twist in my opinion, in order to make relegation mathematically impossible.
The hosts have a few injury concerns with midfielders Jerome Thomas and Steven Reid are fighting to recover from injuries and the Baggies could also be without their captain and first choice keeper Scott Carson, once of Villa, who picked up a thigh strain last time out. The only certain absentee will be Graeme Dorrans, despite making progress in his recuperation from an ankle injury.
West Brom haven’t beaten Villa in 26 years, encompassing all their encounters in the top flight in which Villa have come out on top 5 times and drawn 4. In the 8 games that Roy Hodgson has managed however, Villa’s local rivals have lost just once in a 3-1 defeat to reigning champions Chelsea, picking up an impressive win against Liverpool and a draws with both Arsenal and Tottenham along the way. Earlier in the season, Villa came out on top on home soil in a 2-1 win with Downing and Heskey netting before a late strike from Paul Scharner made things a little nervy.
Possible Villa Starting XI: Friedel; Walker, Collins, Dunne, L Young; A Young, Reo-Coker, Petrov, Downing; Agbonlahor, Bent.
Key Man: Kyle Walker
Goalscorer(s): Bent, A Young
Final Score: 2-2
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