Who said the end of the season was just going to peter out into nothing, that for sides in mid-table that these final few games didn't really matter, that they were little more than end of season friendlies? Not for West Brom.
Last week saw a big game against Liverpool, a revenge mission for the fans and the players even if the man they were imparting revenge on behalf of, Roy Hodgson, said it was just another game and conducted himself with great dignity despite some of the treatment he received whilst at Liverpool.
If that was Hodgson's big game, for a large section of Albion fans, this weekend's derby match against Aston Villa is their big game.
There will always be the debate over who are West Brom's true rivals, Villa or Wolves? I've always said it's very much dependent on where you are from and who you know, there is no official number one rivalry, it is different for most fans, for some Baggies even Birmingham is thier big game. It is seldom that Albion have ever had the chance to really show up and get one over on Villa and their fans, tomorrow is a day where they could.
West Brom go into the game mathematically safe from relegation and in the top half of the Premier League with 45 points. Aston Villa sit 15th, with only three points separating them from the relegation zone. An Albion win tomorrow could go a long way to condemning a 2nd midlands rival to relegation, particularly should other results go against our neighbours.
It also presents Albion with the unique opportunity of a double double, Albion currently have a 100% winning record against their midlands rivals, the double over Wolves coupled with West Brom's first victory at Villa Park in a long, long time. This would cover the problem of who are Albion's true rivals, as the fans would have bragging rights over both.
As a local derby, the game is bound to have a little spice to it, particularly with the position Villa find themselves in. However, I do expect there to be more spice after incidents in the game at Villa Park, in particular the horrific tackle made by Alan Hutton on Shane Long which has most certainly curtailed the Irishman's debut season. Long has come out and said he holds no grudge against Hutton, I'm not sure that the fans will be quite so forgiving, I know I won't be anyway!
This game does have similarities to last season's clash with Wolves at Molineux. Albion were already safe and Wolves were fighting for their lives, and Albion merely rolled over like they were on their summer holidays. Somehow, I don't see Roy Hodgson allowing his players to do similar again, especially with some playing for their futures.
I think West Brom will win, I am that optimistic. The score? 2-0.
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