Another big match, nightmares before Christmas and El Ghazi

This isn't me having a dig at El Ghazi, but I hope the nightmares have ended and he's willing to walk onto the pitch later. And I write that because half the job is getting the chances and as a player that isn't used to playing, to have done that so quickly is actually quite nice to see.

And this is me actually saying I hope he gets to start, because if he doesn't, it's not going to do his confidence any good and it's probably going to feel like he's dropped for missing all those chances against Burnley, no matter what is said to him privately.

Players need time and that isn't just one match. And today is another big match for us, because the opportunity still exists. We win our three games in hand over Liverpool and we could go second. But today is going to be tough.

It's going to be tough because Big Sam is now in charge at West Brom and Big Sam has an ability to get players playing that little bit better and as a team and that is what I expect to see this evening.

But they're not Liverpool or Manchester City and we have to do better today and that means we have to win. If you don't take the opportunities, they tend to stop presenting themselves and if we don't, we will only have ourselves to blame.

Match facts from the BBC


  • West Brom are unbeaten in eight home games against Aston Villa in all competitions since a 2-1 Premier League defeat in September 2008 (W3, D5).
  • This is their first top-flight meeting since a goalless draw at The Hawthorns in January 2016.

West Bromwich Albion

  • The Baggies have seven points after 13 matches. No team has had fewer than eight points after 14 fixtures of a Premier League season and gone on to avoid relegation.
  • West Brom have only scored five goals in their past 10 league matches, and never more than once in a game during that run.
  • They have the lowest expected goals total of 7.5 in the Premier League this season, indicating their failure to create clear chances.
  • Albion are the only side yet to score a headed goal in the top flight this season.
  • The Baggies have lost their final league match before Christmas in each of their past four Premier League campaigns.
  • Sam Allardyce has only once lost his first Premier League game in charge of a team, with Sunderland in October 2015 (W5, D1).
  • Allardyce was at West Brom from 1989 to 1991. He made one appearance for the club as a player and was also a coach under manager Brian Talbot.

Aston Villa

  • Dean Smith's side have won four of their five away games in the Premier League this season, as many as they had in their previous 42 attempts.
  • Aston Villa have already surpassed the 11 points they earned in away fixtures last season.
  • They can reach 20 points after 12 fixtures of a Premier League season for the first time since 2009-10 under Martin O'Neill.
  • Villa have kept an unrivalled six clean sheets in the division this season prior to the weekend fixtures - just one fewer than they registered in the entirety of 2019-20.
  • The Villans can keep three successive Premier League clean sheets for the first time since a run of four from January to February 2010.
  • They have won their final league match before Christmas in just one of the past nine seasons, and haven't done so in the top flight since beating West Brom in December 2010 (D3, L5).