West Brom V Aston Villa at The Hawthorns - Match Preview

Anelka may make derby return

West Brom striker Nicolas Anelka could make his return to first-team action in Monday's Barclays Premier League clash with Aston Villa at The Hawthorns.

Anelka, recently sidelined by a groin problem, has missed the last two matches but Albion head coach Steve Clarke has indicated the Frenchman will be available for the midlands derby.

Clarke is not ruling out winger Scott Sinclair (hamstring) being involved for the first time in six games, while Chris Brunt, Gareth McAuley and Boaz Myhill all look set to feature despite withdrawing from their international squads during the break.

Ahead of the match Clarke stressed he is happy to wait until the new year before entering into talks about his contract situation.

He said: "The contract was always running down.

"It's not a big issue for me because, before we get there (to the talks), there is a lot of football to be played, a lot of games still to go.

"We have a big game on Monday night against our local rivals, which we're looking forward to.

"The contract situation for me will take care of itself.

"We have a number of games over December and January. It's a busy, busy time and, when we get time, myself and the club will sit down and discuss the way forward."

Asked specifically if he was happy for the talks to not begin until the new year, Clarke said: "Yes. As far as I know, that is what was always planned.

"I didn't go to the club to ask for the contract - I've never asked for a contract in my life.

"I've been lucky that they have always seemed to come to me.

"That's the way it is. I'm happy with the situation and the club are happy - that should put everybody's mind at rest."

Then asked if he was happy to stay at the club, Clarke added: "Yes, of course."

Villa manager Paul Lambert hopes to welcome back several key players from injury.

Strikers Andreas Weimann (hamstring) and Gabriel Agbonlahor (ankle) have missed recent games with problems while fellow forward Christian Benteke had a knee issue while on international duty with Belgium.

However, all three are in contention for the trip to the Hawthorns while the likes of Fabian Delph (knee) and Antonio Luna (hamstring) are also over recent problems. Defender Joe Bennett is still struggling with a back injury.

Lambert spiced up Monday's match by insisting Aston Villa are still a bigger club than their neighbours.

The Villa Park outfit have traditionally been regarded as the top side in the region due to their 1982 European Cup success, large fan-base and 42,000 capacity stadium.

However, it is the more modest West Brom who have established themselves as the top team in the midlands in recent seasons, finishing higher than their rivals in the Barclays Premier League in the last two years.

While Villa have had to significantly tighten their belts financially and Birmingham and Wolves find themselves languishing in the Football League, Albion are going from strength to strength under chairman Jeremy Peace.

The Black Country side have a successful structure in place which has seen previous technical director Dan Ashworth and his successor Richard Garlick work brilliantly with former coach Roy Hodgson and current boss Steve Clarke.

Villa and Albion's battle for supremacy has ignited the rivalry between supporters but Lambert believes his side still have bragging rights despite Albion's footballing and financial supremacy of late.

"Aston Villa is a massive club," he said. "I don't think anyone can ever dispute that. It's a club that's won a European Cup, league titles, has a massive fan-base and has a bigger stadium.

"That's no disrespect to West Brom at all - they're a good club in their own right.

"I haven't been at West Brom or managed the club but Aston Villa, for me, is a bigger club."

Source: PA

Source: PA