Local bragging rights are up for grab on Monday night as Aston Villa make the short trip to take on West Bromwich Albion in the first midlands derby of the season.
Villa will head into the game buoyed by their 2-0 win over Cardiff last time out. Paul Lambert’s side currently sit 11th in the table, level on points with their rivals.
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A first win in six games would see Villa move into the top half of the table and defender Matt Lowton, currently out of the side after a poor start to the season, believes his side can get a result at the Hawthorns.
Speaking to the BBC v WM, Lowton said “We’re going to go there and try to get all three points, which we’re well capable of.”
Villa let slip a 2-0 lead last season to draw 2-2 and Lowton believes his side can go one better this time round.
“Last year we set off fantastically and were two up at The Hawthorns, and then we let it slip,” recalls Lowton.
“But this year, with the players we’ve brought in, we’re playing some great football and we’re definitely going to cause them a lot of problems.
“Derbies are always special and this one should be a fantastic game. We’ve come off on the back of some great results and we’re looking to kick on.”
Villa’s win over Cardiff was their first since beating Manchester City in September and have managed just two goals in their last 5 games. Top scorer Christian Benteke has not scored in any of his last five Premier League appearances; his longest goal drought in the competition since joining Aston Villa.
Benteke was Villa’s main last season however with summer signing Libor Kozak talking his Premier League tally to 2 with the second goal in the win over Cardiff Lambert will hope to ease the pressure on the Belgian star.
West Brom meanwhile have a striking dilemma of their own, albeit a welcome one, with Shane Long re-discovering his form after a barren start to the season.
The Irish international scored in 2-2 draw with Chelsea last time out and he carried that form in the International break scoring for Ireland in their 3-0 win over Latvia.
The start against Chelsea was Long’s second successive and the Tipperary native will hope that he has done enough to keep his place especially with manager Steve Clarke praising his recent contribution.
“There’s been a lot of focus on Shane’s contract situation in the media but I look at Shane’s performance against Chelsea and I don’t think it’s upsetting him too much,” Clarke told the club’s website. “His performance levels are good.
“He needs to concentrate on keeping those performance levels and the future will take care of itself. I’ve said all along that Shane will play a big part for us this season.
“That one game against Chelsea doesn’t make it a big part, but it’s a start. It shows what he can do for us.
“He had an interrupted start to this season and again he’s just been away for an international break. But at least he got a chance to come off the bench and score another goal, and started on Tuesday.
“He’s got back to back goals and hopefully he can get another goal when he next plays.”