Facing high-flying Aston Villa at Villa Park holds no fear for West Bromwich Albion tomorrow, manager Tony Mowbray has said.
Albion may be bottom but have only been beaten once in four games, at Chelsea, and have won back-to-back Premier League games at The Hawthorns against Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, and Mowbray believes that run has given his side great heart as they face their near neighbours and Champions League chasers.
Albion can draw on their impressive performance against Martin O’Neill’s men at The Hawthorns this season when they were narrowly edged out 2-1, and Mowbray believes his side will have learned from that experience.
However, he is aware of the fate that befell Birmingham City at Villa Park last season when Blues were in a similar position and thumped 5-1.
“We relish the challenge, like we do with every game,” Mowbray said. “We understand how difficult these games can be against any Premier League side, away from home is a difficult test. It is a derby and one we are looking forward to. We certainly are not going to fear it.
“If we don’t get anything at Villa Park so be it and we move on to the next game. If we do then it will be a great day for our supporters. Our destiny will be decided by home matches but we are fully aware we can win on the road. Where better than at Villa Park to get our first away win of the second half of the season?
“It will be intense but generally every game in the Premier League has intensity. They are all big games and huge occasions. Villa are on a good run of form and riding high and yet they will be aware that every game is tough and you have to earn the victory over the whole 90 minutes. We will be going there to make life difficult for them.”
Albion have not won at Villa Park since a 1-0 League Cup victory during the 1981-82 season but they have held the hosts to stalemate five times in their last seven visits, and Mowbray believes his side can get another result tomorrow.
“They are not invincible at home,” he said. “Middlesbrough won there recently and they have drawn a few at home.
“I know Albion have not won there in how many years it is, but this side hasn’t played there yet, so that can change.
“We have done all right in derbies since I was manager. My first game was against Wolves and we won 3-0. Since then we have only lost once against Wolves in eight games, which is a decent record.
“Against Villa we lost narrowly earlier in the season, 2-1, and we felt we had it snatched away from us a little bit. We applied ourselves very well and gave a good showing and yet the strength and pace of Carew and Agbonlahor that day cost us. We will see if we have learned anything on Saturday.”
Albion have been given a triple injury boost ahead of Saturday’s derby as midfielders James Morrison (groin) and Filipe Teixeira (calf), plus defender Gianni Zuiverloon (knee) all came through full training yesterday, but defender Abdoulaye Meite did not train and is still recovering from a hamstring injury.
Mowbray will wait until today to see if the trio are fit enough to be included in the squad to face Villa.
The Albion boss was given another boost as striker Ishmael Miller’s operation on his damaged cruciate knee ligaments has been declared a success.