West Bromwich Albion travel to the Boleyn Ground this weekend for the 100th meeting between the sides in all competitions. The Baggies are slightly ahead with 39 wins to the Hammers’ 38, and they have scored five more goals in the fixture helped by the 4-0 win in the last game at the Hawthorns in the FA Cup in February.
At Upton Park, Albion have 14 wins, although none since November 2003. I was fortunate enough to witness that match when Gary Megson’s Baggies found themselves 3-0 down after 18 minutes, only for a Rob Hulse brace and a red card for Jermain Defoe leaving the match finely poised at 3-2 at half time. After an own goal from Brian Deane had levelled the scores, Lee Hughes’s winner with 15 minutes to go seemed almost inevitable.
The Baggies’ only win at West Ham in the Premier League was the first such fixture in September 2002. A Jason Roberts goal was enough to secure the Baggies’ first Premier League points away from the Hawthorns (Roberts pictured with Tomas Repka in that fixture), having secured their first Premier League win over Fulham in their previous match. Both sides ended up relegated that season, with the Irons recording a record 42 points for a relegated side, some 16 points ahead of Albion who were one place below.
This season, Slaven Bilic has proved to be a masterful appointment as he has guided the Hammers to an impressive start amassing 21 points from the first 13 games leaving them in sixth place. One of the main reasons for that has been the massive signing of Dimitri Payet from Olympique de Marseille. Having been second in terms of assists in top European leagues last season to none other than Lionel Messi, it was a remarkable coup for West Ham. Payet got 16 assists and 7 goals in Ligue 1 last season and has continued that good form this year with 5 goals and 3 assists so far.
However, a challenge by James McCarthy in West Ham’s draw with Everton earlier this month has left Payet with a damaged ankle and a lengthy spell on the sidelines. It remains to be be seen just how much that might affect the Hammers’ form, but their heavy defeat at White Hart Lane last time out was not a good sign.
Albion are an altogether different proposition to Tottenham, and West Ham are unlikely to be worried about conceding four goals, but they will miss Payet’s invention to break down the Albion defence. They do still have the likes of Lanzini, Sakho and Moses who can all be match winners on their day, and let’s not forget Andy Carroll. The former England striker has had mixed performances against the Baggies and I’m sure the Albion back line will enjoy battling with him once again.
Pulis, of course, has a decision as to the make up of that back line with Chris Brunt serving a suspension for picking up five yellow cards, which is in itself an indication that he is not the best of tacklers but is being forced to make them as a full back. Could it be that Sébastien Pocognoli gets his chance….? No, I’m not expecting that either – with McAuley available again after suspension, I’m expecting to see McClean back at left back or, perhaps, Olsson moved over to the left side. If McClean does drop back, I’d love to see McManamanan back in the starting line-up, but I doubt Pulis will be able to spot him behind Craig Gardner jumping up and down shouting “Pick me! Pick me!”.
Albion somehow managed to produce enough to beat Arsenal last time out. Albion spent much of the game without the ball, but Arsenal didn’t have that many clear cut chances although, with the penalty and the Joel Campbell sitter, they had enough to have won the game. Nonetheless, it was a good defensive performance from Albion, and McClean was once again impressive on the left side of midfield. He was outshone by Claudio Yacob, however, who is proving crucial for Albion as a destroyer protecting the back four. If Yacob plays well, Albion have a much better chance of getting a clean sheet and, therefore, not losing. In fact, last week’s win over Arsenal brought Albion their first points of the season from a game in which the opposition have scored.
Pulis reported in Friday’s press conference that a number of players are struggling with knocks but the only confirmed absentees are Ben Foster (long term injury) and Chris Brunt (suspended).
Along with Dimitri Payet, the Hammers will defintiely be without Enner Valencia (injured) and captain Mark Noble (suspended). Alex Song is just back from injury while Rheece Oxford and Patrick Obiang are also injury doubts.
Having picked up just one point from the last three games, West Ham will be looking to get back to the form that has pushed them into contention for a European spot but, without Payet, I think they will struggle to break down the Albion defence. If Albion can keep a clean sheet, they may well be able to snatch a goal, but I think this match will finish all square.
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All competitions; most recent game on the right
14 Feb 2015 – FA Cup 5th Round
West Brom 4 (Ideye (2), Morrison, Berahino)
West Ham United 0
Last meeting at West Ham United
1 Jan 2015 – Premier League
West Ham United 1 (Sakho)
West Brom 1 (Berahino)
Last win at West Ham United
8 Nov 2003 – League Division 1
West Ham United 3 (Defoe, Deane (2))
West Brom 4 (Hulse (2), Deane (o.g.), Hughes)
Albion’s Record against West Ham United
|Premier League Record|