Get the lowdown on Wednesday's clash at Villa (ko 7.45pm)
THE Baggies return to top-flight action with a bang against West Midlands rivals Villa tomorrow night (ko 7.45pm). Here, the guys over at football statistics website WhoScored.com preview Albion’s 37th Barclays Premier League Midlands derby.
Pepe Mel might not yet know much about the passion exuded in a clash between his side and the Claret and Blues, but he will certainly learn when the two meet this week.
However, while there is nothing better than getting one over your fiercest rival, the ultimate prize remains three points.
Current form in the Barclays Premier League and results in recent meetings between the clubs both weigh in the Baggies' favour.
Albion have lost only one of their last six Premier League matches, that coming in the form of a narrow 1-0 defeat at Southampton, while Villa have lost five and won only one of their last eight.
What is more – and contrary to what is usually the case - Paul Lambert's side are remarkably better on their travels than on home soil.
While on the road they have earned 16 points, they have picked up just eight points from 11 games at Villa Park, giving them the worst home record in the top flight.
They are the only team to have failed to make it into double figures in terms of goals scored at home this season, and also have the worst home goal difference in the league (-8).
Villa have been so below-par on their own patch this season that even though the Baggies are better at home than on the road, they have still earned more points in away games (9) than their neighbours have at Villa Park (8).
Furthermore, Albion remain unbeaten in their last six clashes against the Villains, their last defeat coming way back in December 2010.
Both teams are much changed since then, though, and Albion have finished some way above their West Midlands rivals for the last two seasons.
One more thing to bear in mind, is in the last six meetings between the clubs the team to score first has never held on to their lead and taken all three points.
So, if or when either team takes the lead, plenty of drama is to be expected.
* WhoScored.comis a unique website and one of the fastest growing in the sports industry, specialising in the in-depth analysis of detailed football data. Provided with unique stats, they compile and create comprehensive analysis on the major European divisions, including live match stats and player ratings. Follow @WhoScoredand their editor-in-chief @alitweedaleon Twitter.
All-time results record (League, FA Cup and League Cup)
The Baggies' six-game unbeaten run in West Midlands derbies with the Villains is the club's best record against their closest rivals since 1966.
Albion against Villa is the oldest West Midlands derby, with the Baggies meeting the Claret and Blues for the first time in the FA Cup on Saturday, January 3, 1885 - over 130 years ago.
It is also the most-played West Midlands derby in the top flight, with 133 fixtures between the two clubs. Villa against Wolves is the second-most played derby with 104 meetings, while the Villains have met Blues on 102 occasions, and the Baggies have taken on Wolves 100 times.
Villa have won only two home games this term while the Baggies have recorded only one victory on the road.
Albion have conceded first in each of their last seven away games.
Paul Lambert's side have scored just eight goals at Villa Park this term - netting on home soil on fewer occasions than any other Barclays Premier League side.
Last time out
HOME: Barclays Premier League, Monday, November 25, 2013, Albion 2 (Long 3, 11) Villa 2 (El Ahmadi 67, Westwood 76)
AWAY: Barclays Premier League, Saturday, September 30, 2012, Villa 1 (Bent 80) Albion 1 (Long 51)
Form guide (last six league matches)
Last league match line-ups
ALBION (v Everton - home D 1-1): Foster; Reid, Lugano, Olsson, Ridgewell; Gera (Mulumbu 60), Yacob, Morrison, Brunt; Vydra (Anichebe HT), Anelka (Berahino 76). Subs not used: Myhill (gk), Jones, Sessegnon, Amalfitano.
VILLA (v Liverpool – away D 2-2): Guzan; Bacuna, Vlaar, Clark, Bertrand (Luna 81); El Ahmadi (Sylla 62), Westwood, Delph; Weimann, Benteke, Agbonlahor (Holt 49) Subs not used: Steer (gk), Helenius, Albrighton, Gardner.
Villa team news
Gabby Agbonlahor is likely to miss the game due to the foot injury he suffered against Liverpool, while defender Nathan Baker is available following concussion.
Mark Clattenburg referees Wednesday’s game. The County Durham official oversaw the Baggies' 2-0 home defeat by Norwich in December. Clattenburg has dished out one red and 73 yellow cards in 22 matches so far this season.
Selected odds from SkyBet:
Villa to win: 8/5
Albion to win: 17/10
Saido Berahino to score the first goal: 15/2
Christian Benteke to score the first goal: 9/2
If you fancy a flutter with the club's official online betting partner, click here.
Tickets for this game sold out on Wednesday, January 8 with the Baggies set to be backed by 2,956 supporters at Villa Park.
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