Yacob nears return for Albion

West Brom hardman Claudio Yacob could be fit for the weekend derby against Aston Villa as he nears a return following six weeks out injured.

The Argentina international has been sidelined with a hamstring problem since the Barclays Premier League clash with Stoke at The Hawthorns on December 1.

He has been a big loss to the Baggies, particularly with his midfield partner Youssouf Mulumbu now on African Nations Cup duty with DR Congo.

But Albion assistant boss Kevin Keen is confident Yacob is close to ending an absence which has so far cost him eight games.

Keen said: "Claudio is a really key player and, let's be honest, we've missed him. He's got a really big role in the team and earlier in the season, we saw how important it was.

"He has had a little bit of a setback which slowed down his recovery and we've taken it slowly this time to ensure he is okay.

"We're hopeful he will be back, if not for this weekend, then the weekend after."

Keen is also optimistic strikers Shane Long (dead leg) and Marc-Antoine Fortune (hamstring) will be back to face Villa at The Hawthorns.

He said: "If we don't suffer anymore setbacks, then we should soon have everyone available again, apart from obviously Zoltan Gera (who has a long-term knee injury)."