With eight games remaining in the season, Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion were both within one point of the relegation zone.
Fast forward four matches, and the duo is 12th (Villa – 41 points) and 13th (Albion – 40 points) respectively and eyeing off a top-ten finish in the English Premier League standings.
They will go head to head on Saturday at the Hawthorns.
While Albion are just six points above the drop, the number of teams in between Roy Hodgson’s men and 18th spot means they are all but safe in their promotion season to the English Premier League.
The Villans are seven points clear and will be relieved to have escaped the drop zone’s clutches, but there will be nothing spared when they meet their West Midlands rivals on Saturday.
The club has announced Gerard Houllier will not be back to coach Aston Villa again this season due to health reasons, but he would have reason to feel better with his side four games unbeaten since their humiliating derby loss to Wolves in March.
Albion’s form has been similarly resurgent under Roy Hodgson, with their only loss in their past four coming at the hands of Chelsea.
Win over Liverpool and Sunderland and a draw with Tottenham has virtually ensured the Baggies of Premier League football next term.
Aston Villa won the reverse fixture at Villa Park 2-1 in December, with Stewart Downing and Emile Heskey on target for the victors and Paul Scharner scoring a late consolation for Albion.
Baggies midfielder Graham Dorrans is likely to miss the remainder of the season with an ankle problem, while Pablo Ibanez will be absent with a hamstring injury.
Aston Villa’s only health concern is Houllier, who will be discharged from hospital in the coming days.
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