West Brom v Aston Villa
Tuesday May 14, 20:00
Live on Sky Sports
West Brom frustrated after first leg
West Brom caretaker boss Jimmy Shan admits Albion side must approach Tuesday night's contest on the front foot if they are going to overturn a 2-1 deficit and reach Wembley. The Baggies led for almost an hour on Saturday following Dwight Gayle's first-half strike with Shan's defensive system frustrating their hosts and limiting clear-cut opportunities.
However, Villa struck twice inside three second-half minutes to turn the tie on its head. But the real tipping point may have come late on when leading goalscorer Gayle was sent off for a second yellow card, ruling him out of the return match. WBA supporters angered by the call, as well as the decision not to award a penalty for a clumsy challenge on Mason Holgate.
With Hal Robson-Kanu also banned, Jay Rodriguez is likely to lead the attack with support from Matt Phillips. The hosts will check on defender Craig Dawson and may opt to include out-of-contract teenager Rekeem Harper from the start with Shan saying, "The atmosphere will be electric and we've got to be bit more on the front foot and take the game to Aston Villa."
Aston Villa won't sit back
Aston Villa head coach Dean Smith will order the Claret & Blue to go on the attack as they bid to complete their play-off semi-final victory over the regional rivals at The Hawthorns on Tuesday night. The late turnaround at Villa Park has put the visitors in the driving seat and Smith is keen to ensure his side don't sit back in the Black Country.
Smith said, "We'll be going for the win. That's how we want to approach games and how the players know I want to approach games. We've got used to winning football games so we don't want to stop that." The Villa boss admitted he was pleased with the result from the first leg but was well aware his team failed to hit their usual high standards.
Villa lacked their usual inspiration for large swathes of the opening encounter and it wasn't until a double substitution that featured Conor Hourihane replacing Glenn Whelan in central midfield soon after the hour mark that the tide began to turn. Hourihane is expected to keep his place after scoring, whilst centre-back Tyrone Mings is expected to be fit to start.
Baggies a big price
Saturday's success was Aston Villa's first triumph in five (W1-D2-L2) facing West Brom and the Claret & Blue will be bidding to end a winless streak of seven (W0-D5-L2) at The Hawthorns this midweek. Indeed, the visitors' last victory on Albion soil arrived in 2008, a campaign that saw Villa finish sixth in the Premier League and WBA finish rock-bottom.
The 2.789/5 offered on a West Brom win is the biggest price seen on the Baggies at The Hawthorns this season. Albion have delivered five straight wins as hosts under James Shan and home supporters will point to their victory over Villa in February when Gayle was absent. Even so, WBA have only managed W3-D5-L3 when welcoming top-half teams.
Aston Villa 2.767/4 have W11-D1-L1 in their most recent 13 outings and the visitors have suffered only two defeats on their travels since October (W8-D5-L2), suggesting they're comfortable in picking up results on the road. However, it's worth noting that Expected Goals (xG) data ranked the Claret & Blue as low as 16th when viewing away performances.
Second leg shootout on the cards
We were right to support Both Teams To Score ahead of the first leg clash and a similar angle of attack could pay dividends on Tuesday night. Only league winners Norwich (93) scored more goals than West Brom (87) and Aston Villa (82) in the regular season with the two teams now combining to notch in 82 of their collective 94 Championship encounters.
Dwight Gayle might be absent from the West Brom attack but the hosts have enough firepower within their ranks to pose problems, particularly with caretaker coach James Shan promising a forward-thinking approach as Albion eye a route back into the tie.
Considering the pair have managed just nine shutouts in their respective home/away games, Both Teams To Score banking in 66% of their collective contests, and the noticeably upward trend in goal-heavy games for play-off semi-final second legs, I'm happy to support Over 2.5 Goals at a very fair 1.875/6 ahead of Tuesday's tussle.