SussexBaggie speaks… bring on the Villa

Last updated : 20 November 2013 By Wba-mad Editor

These international breaks are starting to get a bit irritating, especially now the only matches England are involved in are meaningless friendlies.

This two-week break is dragging even more than usual with the small matter of a local derby coming up next week against Aston Villa.

The disappointment of the last few seconds at Chelsea will still be fresh in the memory of many Albion fans, even though we actually came away with a point that very few supporters would have expected prior to kick-off.

I wasn’t at Stamford Bridge, but from watching the highlights and reading various reports on the game, it sounds as though we once again put in an impressive performance against one of the best sides in the league and can feel very hard done by not to have picked up three points.

The penalty incident has been discussed at length since the game, so I will instead focus on our game against Villa next Monday.

This is the first game almost every Albion fan will have been looking out for when the fixtures were released back in June, and takes on added significance with the two sides level on points in the table and only separated by one goal.

Our two games against Villa last season ended in draws, with a hard-fought 1-1 being contested at Villa Park before we came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at The Hawthorns – a game which saw Peter Odemwingie score his last goal for the club.

There will be plenty of debate among Albion fans over the next few days about who should start for us in a game where we really ought to be on the front foot early on.

Saido Berahino has done his chances no harm at all after scoring twice for England U21s against Finland, winning the Man of the Match award in the process.

Many supporters, myself included, believe Berahino has already done more than enough to start on a regular basis after scoring 12 goals in just 13 games for club and country so far this season.

In my opinion, our two best all round performances this season have come against Manchester United at Old Trafford and at home to Arsenal – two games in which Berahino played a big role.

Is he ready to start as a lone striker in the Premier League? That is debatable, but he has done enough when played out wide this season to suggest that he can be a real threat even if he is not played in what his undoubtedly his best position through the middle.

Shane Long has also staked a claim for a starting place against Villa with a goal for the Republic of Ireland in their comfortable victory over Latvia.

I criticised him in my last blog after a poor performance against Crystal Palace, but he produced his best display for months during the second half of our game at Chelsea last week, scoring his first goal of the season in the process.

I’m still certainly not convinced that Long has a long-term future at the club, but he still has a part to play and is good enough to influence our results in the coming weeks.

Derby games are normally decided simply by which team plays better on the day, with previous results against each other and recent form in general going out the window.

Our key players – the likes of Youssouf Mulumbu, Morgan Amalfitano and Stephane Sessegnon – will need to be on form if we are to have the edge in what is likely to be a very close game.

The supporters will also have a big part to play. The atmosphere at The Hawthorns has been disappointing at times this season, but it should be a bit different for an important derby game under floodlights.

There is no doubt it will be a tough game, but hopefully we can produce another impressive performance and pick up an important win.

Boing Boing! 

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