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Preview: West Bromwich Albion vs. Aston Villa

Sports Mole looks ahead to the Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa on matchday 23.

The Premier League's bottom club Aston Villa head to nearby West Bromwich Albion on Saturday having picked up four points out of a possible six from their last two games against top-half sides.

Remi Garde is still without an away win and they might fancy it against a Baggies side comprehensively beaten last weekend.

West Brom

Salomon Rondon celebrates scoring during the FA Cup game between Bristol City and West Bromwich Albion on January 19, 2016© Getty Images

Tony Pulis's side went to Southampton having picked up seven points out of a possible nine against Newcastle United, Stoke City and Chelsea, but they went down 3-0 at St Mary's to suffer their first defeat since Boxing Day.

Just six points separate the Baggies from the bottom three and with their next three league games against bottom-four sides in Villa, Swansea City and Newcastle United, it can either be viewed that the fixtures are getting easier or that those teams below them will be eyeing West Brom as a side they can claw into the relegation battle.

Away from the league, the Baggies travelled to Bristol City in midweek for a third-round FA Cup replay and reached the last 32 - where they will face Peterborough United - with a 1-0 win.

Salomon Rondon got the goal, the first time that he has found the net since October, and Jonny Evans said that the whole squad was delighted for the Venezuelan.

With Rondon back scoring, wantaway striker Saido Berahino is unlikely to feature this weekend and West Brom have reportedly not received any concrete offers from rumoured admirers Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur.

At The Hawthorns, West Brom started the season with only one win and four defeats in six league games, but they have improved in the last couple of months with three wins and just one defeat in five home matches.

Recent Premier League form: LLWWDL
Recent form (all competitions): WWDDLW


Remi Garde appears ahead of the FA Cup game between Wycombe Wanderers and Aston Villa on January 9, 2016© Getty Images

There is still a long, long way to go, but there is a bit of hope for Villa now thanks to their recent upturn in form.

After Garde ended his wait for a win at home to Palace earlier this month, Villa held high-flying Leicester City to a draw at Villa Park, although the visitors missed a penalty and there was a strong suspicion of handball in the build-up to Rudy Gestede's equaliser.

Unfortunately for Villa, Swansea and Newcastle also both won on matchday 22, so the gap to safety is still 10 points and it will take some run of form to escape the drop.

The Villans were also in midweek FA Cup action and they got the better of League Two side Wycombe Wanderers to set up a fourth-round home tie against Manchester City later this month.

So things have improved at home of late, but Villa have taken just two points from a possible 30 in their last 10 Premier League away games.

They are yet to do any business in January, although a move for Celtic's Stefan Johansen has been speculated.

Recent Premier League form: DDLLWD
Recent form (all competitions): LLDWDW

Team News

Rudy Gestede celebrates scoring during the game between Aston Villa and Leicester on January 16, 2016© Getty Images

Gestede has not started in Villa's last two league games, but after netting the equaliser against Leicester might come back in place of Libor Kozak.

The big striker has talked up the importance of Saturday's game and enjoys playing in West Midlands derbies having netted the winner against Birmingham City in the Capital One Cup earlier in the season.

Garde has no need to make any other changes and might opt to continue with the same XI that started against Leicester.

As for the Baggies, Pulis must decide who to play up front, with Rondon pushing for a start after his goal in midweek.

Victor Anichebe led the line at Southampton, but he has not scored in the league all season, while Rickie Lambert has scored more Premier League goals against Villa than versus any other opponent (4).

West Brom possible starting lineup:
Myhill; Dawson, Olsson, McAuley, Evans, McClean; Yacob, Gardner, Fletcher; Sessegnon; Anichebe

Villa possible starting lineup:
Bunn; Bacuna, Okore, Lescott, Cissokho; Gueye, Westwood, Veretout; Gil, Kozak, Ayew

Head To Head

West Brom won the reverse 1-0 at Villa Park thanks to a Berahino goal in the first half and they are unbeaten in their last five Premier League home games against the Villans (W2 D3).

The Baggies won just two of the first 16 Premier League meetings with Villa (W2 D8 L6), but have since won two of the last three (W2 L1).

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We say: West Brom 2-1 Villa

Eight of the last 10 Premier League matches played at The Hawthorns have been won by a single goal margin, so a close game could be on the cards again, with the Baggies just edging it.

Who will come out on top at The Hawthorns, West Brom or Villa?

West Brom
West Brom
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Salomon Rondon celebrates scoring during the FA Cup game between Bristol City and West Bromwich Albion on January 19, 2016
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Evans "delighted" for Salomon Rondon

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