Things Aston Villa Must Do to Wrestle Midlands Crown from West Brom

Joshua HaywardContributor INovember 22, 2013

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - JANUARY 19: Ciaran Clark of Aston Villa applauds the fans during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa at The Hawthorns on January 19, 2013 in West Bromwich, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

On Monday night, Aston Villa travel to The Hawthorns to face local rivals West Bromwich Albion.

Just over four miles separate the two clubs, and although it's not the most fierce rivalry for either side, bragging rights are at stake. There's something else on the line for Villa though: the chance to reclaim the crown as the Midlands' No. 1 side.

Historically, Villa are the biggest side in the Midlands. After all, they have won the league and the FA Cup seven times, the League Cup five times and were crowned European champions some 30-odd years ago.

Villa also have a winning edge over Monday's opponents—claiming the points on 74 of the 160 times the two have faced each other.

So, going on history, there's very little to go against the claret and blues as to which is the biggest club in the Midlands. The majority of Villa fans would certainly tell you that, anyway.

However, if recent results and league finishes were anything to go by, then it certainly looks like the tables may have turned. The Baggies remain undefeated in their last five meetings with Villa and have bettered their season-ending result in the last two campaigns. Steve Clarke's men also sit above Paul Lambert's side—albeit by one place and only on goal difference—this year.

The Villans had a superb chance to overcome West Brom last January after a spectacular goal from Christian Benteke, followed by a Gabriel Agbonlahor strike that had the visitors two goals to the good inside half an hour. But typical of Villa last term, they were unable to shut out their opponents and subsequently let the two-goal cushion slip as the Baggies fought back for a draw.

With Villa's closest rivals Birmingham struggling at the foot of the Championship table and West Brom's nemesis, Wolves, currently playing in League One, it seems that the two will continue to fight for the crown of the Midlands' best club for another two years at least—not that they will mind that, of course.

After a topsy-turvy start to the season, Villa finally look to be getting back on track, and according to Matt Lowton, they will look to Monday night's fixture as a springboard for success.

In an interview with the BBC, the full-back said:

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.

We're not looking down like we were last season. We want to push forward and get as many points on the board as we can.

We've got a lot of winnable games coming up and hopefully we can keep up the momentum of the last few games.

If Villa are to wrestle the crown away from the Baggies, then this is how they will do it:


Secure victory Monday

Pretty obvious, this one. If Villa are to even think about taking their crown back then it will all have to start with a win Monday night.

The claret and blues have taken the lead on three of the last five occasions the two have met—one of the matches ending a goalless draw—but have failed to prevent their rivals from scoring in four of those encounters.

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - JANUARY 19:  Brad Guzan of Aston Villa applauds the fans at the final whistle uring the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa at The Hawthorns on January 19, 2013 in West Bromwich, England.  (P
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Keeping clean sheets has been a real problem for Villa over the recent years. Lambert's side, which were hugely inexperienced last season, have finally started to gel and after going 26 fixtures without a clean sheet have now shut out the opposition on four of the last seven occasions.

A return to form for Benteke would also help Villa claim a win Monday. The Belgian striker notched four goals in four games at the start of this campaign but has since fell short in front of goal following his return from injury.

The 22-year-old has looked his lively self and is sure to hit the goal trail once again—Villa fans are hoping that the fixture against the Baggies can be the start of it.


Finish above West Brom come the end of the season

Beating your rivals is always hugely important for players and fans, but it will mean absolutely nothing unless the success in the fixtures is mirrored in the Premier League table May 11.

Villa last finished above Albion during the 2010/11 season, rounding the campaign off in ninth place whilst the Baggies finished in 11th.

However, West Brom have managed a finish of at least six places better than Villa during the last two seasons—Albion's 10th to Villa's 16th in 2012 and an eighth to 15th last term.

Villa have collected one more win than Monday's opponents so far this year but have suffered defeat on two more occasions, though the sides are only separated by a solitary goal.

Twenty-six more games will remain following the result Monday, but a win for either side could certainly go a long way in separating these teams.


Continue to achieve success against them in the future

This one is more of a long-term goal. Not something that can be achieved this term, but if Villa are to reclaim and keep hold of the crown, then they will need to strive for success in the future—just like they did in the past.

After suffering defeat to West Brom in April 1985, the Villans embarked on quite an astonishing run in derbies against the Baggies. Villa went unbeaten in 17 fixtures until some 26 years later, when second-half goals from Peter Odemwingie and Youssouf Mulumbu helped Albion to a 2-1 win.

A sustained period of success, starting with a win Monday, could set Villa on the way to becoming the Midlands' best club for years to come.