How Aston Villa Will Line Up Against West Bromwich Albion
Just one place separates the two sides—the Baggies in 11th and Villa in 12th. In fact, a solitary goal is the difference between the two football league founders.
The Villans have showed significant improvement over the recent weeks and will look to build upon two successive clean sheets in their last two games.
Here's how they will line up.
GK Brad Guzan
Brad Guzan suffered a minor ankle injury in Villa's 2-0 win over Cardiff City and subsequently missed the USA's international friendlies against Scotland and Austria as a precautionary measure, but he will be fit for the four-mile trip across Birmingham to face local rivals West Brom.
After conceding in a Premier League-record 26 consecutive games, the American stopper has since helped shut out the opponents in four of the last seven matches and will hope for a third consecutive clean sheet against the Baggies.
RB Matt Lowton
By his own admission, Matt Lowton has had a hugely average season. In fact, the right-back, who was one of a few bright stars last season, was dropped after just four games following a dismal showing in Villa's 2-1 loss at home to Newcastle in September.
A number of injuries saw Lowton re-introduced to the squad after a five-game absence. The youngster helped Villa to a draw with West Ham and a win over Cardiff.
A steady improvement on the pitch should see Lowton given another chance in Villa's defence.
CB Ron Vlaar
Ron Vlaar has been Villa's star man this season. The Netherlands international has consistently performed at a high level and has played a key role in Villa's positive results so far this campaign.
The former Feyenoord man has recently spoken of his desire to play in a derby against Villa's fiercest rivals Birmingham City, but he is sure to give his all against the Baggies in the city's second-most important derby on Monday.
CB Ciaran Clark
Irish centre-half Ciaran Clark has always been one to divide opinions at Villa Park. The youngster made his Villa debut in 2009—nine years after joining the claret and blue academy—but has failed to secure a regular spot in the heart of the Villa defence.
An injury to summer signing Jores Okore paved the way for Clark to stake a claim for a starting berth week in, week out and he has repaid Paul Lambert's faith for giving him such a chance.
The Irishman has played all but one of Villa's games since Okore suffered an anterior cruciate knee ligament injury—missing the one through injury—and is certain to start again on Monday.
LB Antonio Luna
Spanish full-back Antonio Luna had, undoubtedly, been Paul Lambert's finest summer signing. The 22-year-old scored Villa's decisive goal in the 3-2 win over Arsenal on the opening day of the season and followed his impressive debut performance with equally solid displays.
Luna had made the left-back spot his own until suffering an injury in training ahead of the clash with West Ham. He subsequently missed the fixture at Upton Park as well as Villa's win over Cardiff but will be fit to play against West Brom.
CM Fabian Delph
Like Antonio Luna, Fabian Delph had played every minute of Villa's opening nine fixtures before being sidelined with an injury.
Before the setback, Delph had been tipped for an England call after stellar performances in the Villa midfield—especially against the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City—though it never came.
The former Leeds United man will start for Villa on Monday, and consistently high performances will surely aid the Bradford-born youngster in his quest for a trial in Roy Hodgson's squad.
CM Ashley Westwood
Paul Lambert will have a selection dilemma as to whether he opts for Ashley Westwood or Karim El Ahmadi, but the Scot is likely to opt for the former.
El Ahmadi has surprised many this season by starring in the centre of Villa's midfield, but Westwood will get the nod following an excellent first season in the Premier League during the 2012/13 campaign—something he has built on this year.
RM Leandro Bacuna
Leandro Bacuna has proved to be Villa's utility man this season.
The Dutchman, who prefers life on the right side of midfield, covered at right-back, replacing Lowton, before spending 90 minutes on the other side of defence.
Regardless of where Bacuna plays, he has performed to the best of his ability and chipped in with a few vital goals, too.
His knack of scoring from set-pieces, as well as doing what was asked of him whenever he featured, will see Bacuna start in his favoured position against the Baggies.
LM Aleksandar Tonev
Bulgarian winger Aleksandar Tonev has, so far, played a bit-part role for Aston Villa since his transfer from Lech Poznan.
The 23-year-old failed to impress during his first few games, opting for a shoot-on-site philosophy which could explain why he was overlooked for a starting berth during the subsequent games.
A long list of injuries in the Villa squad prompted Lambert to give the Bulgarian a chance during the recent weeks, and a change in attitude has seen Tonev improve upon his initial few appearances.
A solid display against Cardiff should be good enough for Tonev to start on the left for Villa.
CF Andreas Weimann
Gabriel Agbonlahor has recovered significantly from an injury that ruled him out of Villa's last two games, but there's a fair chance that he'll only be good enough for the bench.
If this is the case, then Lambert will opt for a 4-4-2 formation with Weimann supporting Villa's leading goalscorer, Christian Benteke.
CF Christian Benteke
Christian Benteke got off to the best possible start this season, scoring four goals in his first four games.
An injury to the Belgian during Villa's 2-0 win over Norwich prevented him from playing for a fortnight, and he has since failed to find the back of the net upon his return.
The 22-year-old has still performed to his usually lofty standards, and it is surely just a matter of time before he hits the goal trail once more.