Even though they slipped into the Premiership relegation zone for the first time in five months this week, Mark Kinsella believes West Bromwich Albion go into Sunday's derby against Aston Villa with the pressure off.

The Walsall player-coach, who has represented both sides in a distinguished professional career, believes that when the two sides meet at Villa Park, it will be the visitors who have less to lose as the Premiership relegation battle hots up.

Albion occupy the third relegation spot, following Birmingham City's 1-0 midweek win over Bolton, while Villa are two places clear with an eight-point buffer.

But given the spiral of self-doubt that appears to have gripped Villa Park, together with Albion's reputation for salvaging lost causes, Kinsella wonders whether the underdogs might finally win a local derby, after four consecutive unsuccessful attempts. And he believes the deteriorating relations between Villa's manager and their fans could negate any notion of home advantage.

"When you are playing at home, there is a lot more pressure on you," Kinsella said.

"That pressure will all be on Villa, their fans will be right up for the derby and want to see an improvement in the performances they have seen.

"They will have come back from Arsenal having been spanked 5-0, even though Arsenal are playing some outstanding football at the moment. Villa are not playing well and the fans are getting a bit restless.

"West Brom will be at them for the first 20-25 minutes and if they're still level at half-time, the crowd will turn on the players. That will rally Albion.

"The pressure is really off because it's up to Villa to get a result. The longer the game goes at 0-0, the more edgy Villa might get, which might see them leak a goal."

Indeed, the former Republic of Ireland international thinks the pressure-cooker atmosphere could galvanise the visitors, rather than intimidate them.

"Certain players like to have people having a go at them - it does give you a buzz. As an away team, you know you have got them rattled if the fans go quiet," said Kinsella.

Derbies are often swung by the team that retains its' composure and Kinsella does not have much faith in Villa's current mental health.

The 5-0 beating at High-bury and a record of just two wins since they won at The Hawthorns on January 2 means they are in danger of being sucked into a scrap at the bottom of the table.

"You have to be worried about their state of mind and the nerves that will be there," he said. "If they end up losing to West Brom, they have got Birmingham City the following weekend in an even bigger derby. If they lose that one, they are bang right in it.

"In derbies, you have to win the battle first. Villa are a very good footballing side, but will they be up to having West Brom in their faces?"

The decisive factor in the season's denouement could be the fact that Albion have been there and done it after they escaped from a similarly perilous position last year. Villa, for their part, have not been in a relegation battle for several seasons and cannot be psychologically prepared for one.

"Albion will be mentally strong because of what happened last year," Kinsella said. "They had some big games at the back of last season and they dug in deep - they'll do it again. They have the players that have done it before and players whose second nature is to fight and battle." The inference, of course, is that Villa do not.