WBA-MAD Preview: Man United vs Albion
Joseph Chapman previews Albion's trip to the Theatre of Dreams. West Brom fans never expect anything at Old Trafford, and that most likely won't change tomorrow. Despite Manchester United currently running away with the league, Albion will never have a better chance to take all three points from Old Trafford. A quick glance at United's 'goals conceded' column will tell you that. After the response Steve Clarke would have wanted, gaining seven points in their last three games, it looks like Albion's run of three straight defeats was merely a blip, rather than a predicted steady slide into the bottom half of the table. United however, extended their lead at the top to seven points with a last gasp victory over Newcastle on Boxing Day, and touchline boxing is what we could have seen between Alex Ferguson and Alan Pardew in the controversial post-yuletide match. The former champions have fallen behind in too many league, cup and European matches for Ferguson's liking this season, but their winning mentality may be the reason why they are also the champions elect. That maybe an attribute to admire, but something that isn't was the Scot's harassment of the match officials on Wednesday. Pardew and Arsene Wenger have already condemned his actions this week, saying he should be punished – a view held by many fans up and down the country. Sitting on 33 points the Baggies have all but guaranteed a fourth successive top flight season before the Premier League has even reached 2013. Steve Clarke's 50 point target is only 17 points away, so there is still plenty to aim for. Four consecutive seasons is something that couldn't be contemplated by the Albion faithful even four or five years ago. This, a reminder of the progress made, and all by working within a strict financial structure, it might be added. Albion haven't beaten United in their previous 16 encounters, while this day 34 years ago the Three Degrees (and Bomber!) came to the fore and swept aside their Lancashire opponents 5-3. Reading, Newcastle and Tottenham have all put three past United this season, while poor travellers Fulham and Stoke have managed two goals apiece at Old Trafford, so there is hope for the Throstles. They just have to worry about keeping out the league's top scorers at the other end. Team news Wayne Rooney is the obvious blow for the Red Devils. Ferguson has confirmed the England striker will be out for up to three weeks with ligament damage to the back of his knee. Danny Welbeck (illness), Ashley Young and Phil Jones are expected to recover while fans may see Shinji Kagawa make a benched appearance after a couple of months out. Jonas Olsson, Goran Popov and Youssouf Mulumbu are all major doubts for Albion with knocks picked up in the win over QPR. While Steven Reid and Claudio Yacob are still not quite ready. Expect to see Graham Dorrans, Gabriel Tamas and Liam Ridgewell deputising. Match stats Man United won 18 home games in the 2010/11 season, one of their many title wins. Albion were the only team to get something at Old Trafford – a 2-2 draw where Edwin Van der Sar and Somen Tchoyi made the headlines. That was one of only two points ever accumulated by the Baggies in the Premier League against United (D2, L10). However, heart will be taken that both points came at the 'Theatre of Dreams'. These two teams come first and second in the 'away form' table', United winning four and Albion three of their last five matches away from home. Names relating to both teams: Bryan Robson, Ron Atkinson, Ben Foster, Jonathan Greening and Ronnie Wallwork. Prediction Jonas Olsson will be a big miss for the Baggies if he doesn't, as expected, pull through. Wayne Rooney is influential and a goal scorer for the hosts, but a certain RVP is also rather reliable. I expect the home side to win, but I fancy the Baggies to score. Match score: 3-1 What do you think the score will be tomorrow? Have your say here at Baggies Banter.
Source: WBA MAD
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