West Brom boss Pepe Mel: I asked Real Betis to sign Christian Benteke last season

Christian Benteke. Photo: PA

West Brom head coach Pepe Mel has revealed he wanted his former club Real Betis to sign Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke when he was in charge of the Spanish outfit.

Albion's Premier League trip to midlands rivals Villa on Wednesday is set to pit Mel against Benteke, who has made a considerable impact in English football.

The Belgium international has netted 30 goals in all competitions for Villa following his move to them from Genk in August 2012, with 23 of them coming last term.

And after a recent 12-game scoring drought, Benteke heads into the derby back in form, having netted once in each of his last two matches.

Certainly Mel, who was Betis coach from the summer of 2010 until last month, has been impressed by the 23-year-old.

"I actually asked Betis to buy Benteke last year in the summer, but he was very expensive," the Spaniard said ahead of the Villa contest, which will be only his second game in charge of Albion.

"We played in a system with wingers and needed someone in the middle to put the ball in the back of the net. I think Benteke plays this role very well.

"But at Betis, as here at West Brom, on the one hand we have the head coach and on the other hand we have people doing negotiations. As the head coach, I wasn't involved in the negotiations."

With the current transfer window in its last few days, Mel has also been discussing potential dealings for his new club.

West Brom are yet to make a signing since his appointment on January 9 but Mel has indicated the Baggies, with Shane Long having departed, are looking to recruit another forward.

He dismissed the idea it might be someone in the "Benteke mould", though, suggesting they already have that in Victor Anichebe, who returned to action in Mel's first game in charge, the 1-1 home draw with Everton, after seven matches out through injury and has scored once in 11 Albion appearances since joining them from Everton in September.

"We need someone who is mobile and able to drop in behind," Mel said.

"Against Everton Anichebe was a really vital player for us."

He also said he will talk with Craig Dawson about the possibility of sending the defender out for another loan spell, while it appears likely striker Markus Rosenberg will leave.

However, he said that winger Graham Dorrans ''could be very useful to us in the future''.

Mel has wasted no time in preparing for what he describes as ''a big game'' on Wednesday, studying Villa closely.

He has taken in their 2-1 home loss to Arsenal - played four days after his appointment - and 2-2 draw at Liverpool that followed, as well as watching back their meeting earlier this season with West Brom, which also finished 2-2.

He said: ''They are a very good team on the counter-attack, but they are also good playing it long and winning the second ball with Benteke.

''My players know this and we have worked hard on stopping these things.

''The 2-2 draw at The Hawthorns was a good match, but it is important for us to get three points this time.''

Undoubtedly, it would be a major early boost for Mel's tenure if he could guide West Brom to victory in the derby, and he said: ''It is a big game for us - the fans, the players, the club.

''We need to win. The only thing is to win.''

Mel said West Brom striker Nicolas Anelka has a ''99 per cent'' chance of playing in the Villa game - Albion's first match since the Frenchman was charged by the Football Association over his 'quenelle' goal celebration.

Forward Stephane Sessegnon, who is undergoing groin surgery and expected to be sidelined for a month, is the only player Mel has unavailable, with defenders Gareth McAuley and Goran Popov now ready to return after hamstring and neck problems respectively.