An in-depth preview of Albion vs Man City
Joseph Chapman looks ahead to tomorrow's game
Cast your mind back to 22 January 2005. Bryan Robson's revolution was about to begin as he looked to save West Brom from an inconceivable relegation. City, who had been promoted alongside the Baggies in 2002, were under the leadership of Kevin Keegan, sitting comfortably in the middle of the table.
The two met at The Hawthorns, where new signing Kevin Campbell and the rejuvenated Ronnie Wallwork gave the home side all three points – and a platform on which to build the greatest of escapes.
Since that fixture, to say that both football clubs have changed – and progressed – would be a rather large understatement. Albion have since been relegated and then promoted twice while Man City had established themselves in the Premier League until becoming a title threat (and eventual winners last year) after foreign investment provided them with funds to purchase world class talent after the likes of Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero arrived from Spain.
Albion are now the mid-table side that City were five years ago, competitive in most, if not all fixtures. A status that Baggies fans will be content with after years of bouncing between England's top two divisions. Steve Clarke is making sure the foundations set by Roy Hodgson are not being wasted, using the tools provided by the shrewd Dan Ashworth to further propel the club up the table.
After recent weeks of iffy performances from the champions, they finally kept their first clean sheet of the season when they demolished Sunderland 3-0 two weeks ago. This certainly stands out as one of the more intriguing fixtures as the Premier League resumes following World Cup qualifiers last week.
There is a question mark over the fitness of Youssouf Mulumbu, the Congolese midfielder who picking up a knock whilst on international duty. Jerome Thomas, Steven Reid, Billy Jones and Boaz Myhill remain out, meaning Gonzalo Jara Reyes and Gabriel Tamas will fight it out for the right back slot. Liam Ridgewell is expected to be fit after missing the games against Aston Villa and Queens Park Rangers. Goran Popov, who played both games in Ridgewell's absence, will deputise if the regular left back doesn't pull through. Steve Clarke remains hopeful that Romelu Lukaku will come through to add to his attacking options after the Belgian loanee picked up a niggle in training.
David Silva is expected to be out for a period of time after picking up a hamstring injury early on in Spain's qualifier against France on Tuesday, the winger will also likely miss the clash with Ajax midweek.
Javi Garcia and Maicon both still have injuries and City may need to do without them, but the likes of Micah Richards, Pablo Zabaleta and Gareth Barry will be available to fill in.
City took four points last season from the two encounters, drawing 0-0 at the Hawthorns while sweeping aside Albion 4-0 at the City of Manchester stadium at the end of the season.
West Brom have enjoyed success at home to the Sky Blues in recent years, winning 2-0 on both occasions in 2005 and 2006 and also edging City 2-1 in 2008. Mario Balotelli's double in was enough to secure the points for the visitors in 2010, although he and Mulumbu were both dismissed that day.
Albion have won their last four Premier League home games, keeping clean sheets in three. Until Adel Taarabt scored two weeks ago, Ben Foster hadn't conceded at the Hawthorns since March.
It rests on the fitness of Youssouf Mulumbu. If the defensive midfielder pulls through, he and Claudio Yacob will prove a problem for the man mountain Yaya Toure, who can hurt teams breaking forward from midfield. David Silva also keeps his side ticking over, so the Spaniard will be missed.
1-1 (If Mulumbu is fit)
1-2 (If Mulumbu fails to pull through)
Read WBA-MAD's official preview here.
Source: WBA MAD
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