Clarke: It's about results
West Brom boss Steve Clarke insists relegation-threatened Aston Villa's status does not give them "a God-given right" to sustain Barclays Premier League football ahead of the Hawthorns derby.
Villa have traditionally been the leading side in the west midlands but that trend altered last season as they only avoided the drop by two points while Albion finished in the top 10.
The same pattern has continued during the current campaign with Villa lying 18th and the Baggies seventh despite a recent slump in fortunes.
Clarke's main focus is on arresting that slump rather than events at Villa Park.
But, when asked if he could believe Villa were in the bottom three, Clarke said: "Yes, because you look at the results this season and they haven't been good enough to get them further up the league.
"That's what happens in football. The size of the stadium or the size of the crowd doesn't give you a God-given right to be in the Premier League.
"They are probably a club in a little bit in transition. They've had good moments in the season, are one game from a Wembley final (in the Capital One Cup).
"It's not all doom and gloom for them. I've seen them quite a few times and they always play with energy and enthusiasm."
Clarke will check on the fitness of a trio of players before finalising his side.
Midfielder Claudio Yacob (hamstring) and strikers Shane Long (dead leg) and Marc-Antoine Fortune (hamstring) will be assessed to see if they are ready to return after recent spells on the sidelines.
But right-back Steven Reid will miss the game as a precaution after suffering a knock on the bone he fractured in his leg against Arsenal last month.
Meanwhile, Paul Lambert admits the expected return of Aston Villa skipper Ron Vlaar will provide a "huge lift" ahead of a crucial four-day period for the midlands club.
Vlaar was recruited from Feyenoord in the summer to be the lynchpin of manager Lambert's reshaped defence.
But he has been sidelined for seven weeks with a calf problem and during that period Villa have leaked a flood of goals - 22 in the last seven games.
But the Holland international is set to play at West Brom ahead of Tuesday's Capital One Cup semi-final second leg meeting with Bradford.
Lambert said: "There's a good chance Ron will be back. He came through this week really well in training.
"The only thing he's lacking is match-fitness but with his muscle and the way he is, he's fine.
"His return could be huge and would be a big lift. He's an experienced lad and he's played a lot of big games.
"Ron was playing really well until he went out of the side injured almost a couple of months ago and it will be good to have him back."
Lambert could soon have striker Darren Bent (knee) and Richard Dunne (groin) back in contention and insists he has the experience in his squad alongside his crop of promising youngsters.
He said: "We have got experienced players here. I think some people are overlooking that.
"Ron is experienced, Ciaran Clark has played a lot of games now, Brad Guzan has played a lot of games. Charles N'Zogbia has played a lot of games.
"Gabby Agbonlahor has played loads of games. Because they're young, doesn't necessarily mean they've not played many games.
"With Darren and Richard, they are big players. Hopefully Richard's problem has been cured and Darren with his knee can get back quick.
"If they get back fit quick, then all the better for everyone."