West Brom v Villa stats: Guzan looking for Baggies shutout
Monday night sees the first West Midlands derby of the season take place at The Hawthorns, with Paul Lambert's Villa side making the short trip full of confidence after victory last time out. Their hosts felt hard done by to come away from Stamford Bridge with less than they may have merited before the international break; a feeling Villa can relate to from earlier on in the campaign.
The two rivals could hardly be closer in the standings, separated only by goal difference, with the Baggies having scored once more this season. While Steve Clarke's side have edged it in terms of possession thus far, Villa have had more shots (140 to 124). Meanwhile Lambert's men have produced more tackles (229 to 180), while West Brom have made more interceptions. The margins between the two have been very slim this season, and indeed whenever the two have come to blows in the top flight.
Their last three encounters have ended in stalemate, while none of the 14 Premier League meetings between the sides have been separated by more than a single goal. With that in mind Villa's improved defensive solidity could be key in this one, with a clean sheet last time out moving them to within one of last season's tally of five with just 11 games played.
The Villans have kept clean sheets in each of their last three matches away from home. Only Lille have kept more in a row on their travels at present in Europe's top five leagues, and if Villa could manage another come Monday they would equal Manchester United's record of four consecutive clean sheets away from home in the Premier League last season.
One man that will be key to the side's chances of doing so is number one Brad Guzan, who has picked up this season where he left off last, winning both the players' and supporters' player of the year award. His rating of 7.10 from WhoScored.com is only bettered by Fabian Delph (7.48) and Leandro Bacuna (7.18) at Villa this season and of all goalkeepers in the league he ranks third once again.
Only Tottenham's Hugo Lloris and table-topping Arsenal's Wojciech Szczesny have accrued a higher statistical rating thus far, and Guzan's command of his area is again helping him achieve top marks. The American has successfully claimed more high balls fired into his box (37) than any other keeper in Europe's top 5 leagues, which is clearly filling his defence with confidence.
The dramatic developments at the back have been a team effort thus far, with Villa conceding just 13.3 shots per game this season compared to 16.8 last time around. It's this development that should give the claret and blue faithful real hope of coming back from their local rivals' stomping ground with a result.
Villa have gone ahead in six of the last eight meetings between the two sides. In the past they've been unable to hold onto the lead against the Baggies but Lambert will be confident that should his side notch first come Monday, his improving back four and ever reliable last line of defence can ensure the side emerge victorious this time round.
Find yet more statistics on Aston Villa and the rest of the Premier League, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings at WhoScored.com. Follow @WhoScored and their editor-in-chief @martinlaurence7 on Twitter.