In another season, this would be an intriguing warm-up for these two teams’ FA Cup semi final match this coming Saturday.
Not this year. Aston Villa can’t afford to think that far ahead; with seven league defeats in a row and just 13 goals all season, they need to start scoring – now.
Manager Tim Sherwood has so far failed to generate the new manager ‘bounce’ in performance that the Villa board had been praying for when they sacked Paul Lambert in February.
They need only look at their West Midlands rivals to see what they’re missing. When Tony Pulis took over in January, West Brom were five places behind Villa. Now they are six places and eight points ahead.
West Brom’s striker Saido Berahino is a fitness doubt, but Pulis’s revival has been built on defensive pragmatism: his seven games in charge have brought five clean sheets, a stat that will be even more concerning for Villa’s toothless attack.
With Premier League survival close to assured, West Brom can look forward to pressing for a serious FA Cup run. Villa, second from bottom, have no such luxury.