Albion head north to the Etihad Stadium for the lunchtime kick-off on Saturday, still looking for a first away league win under Tony Pulis, and a first ever win at the Etihad Stadium.
The champions are bruised following successive defeats against Burnley and Barcelona (no side can have lost to those two sides in succession before, surely!), and with only the Premier League left to play for, they cannot afford to drop any more points and retain any hope of catching Chelsea.
West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City were at a similar stage of development when both clubs were promoted to the Premier League in 2002. City were obviously the bigger club in terms of support, but both clubs had been through a period of decline and a spell in English football’s third tier (although City’s recovery was somewhat swifter than Albion’s). City were Division One champions in 2002, but Albion had beaten them 4-0 at the Hawthorns that season and were one of only four clubs to come away with anything from Maine Road.
The following season was City’s last at Maine Road, and Albion’s last visit to that famous old stadium was a rare away success for the Baggies with Neil Clement and Darren Moore scoring in a 2-1 win. City won the reverse fixture at the Hawthorns that season, but other than that, Albion were unbeaten against City until Manchester’s very own Arab spring when Sheikh Mansour bought the club in September 2008.
Even after that date, Albion beat the new rich kids in the Carling Cup at the Hawthorns in September 2010, but that was the last win over the current Champions with City having won every meeting since bar the 0-0 draw at Eastlands on Boxing Day 2011.
The clubs first met in the precursor of today’s play-offs. In the early days of Division Two, each of the bottom two teams in Division One would play against each of the top two teams in Division Two over two legs in what were known as “Test Matches”. The top two in the mini-league would be invited to take their place in the top flight. In April 1896, the Baggies were assured of finishing bottom of Division One (although there was still one league fixture to play) and first played Manchester City, who had finished second in Division Two, with the first leg played at City’s Hyde Park ground. That game finished 1-1 with Albion trouncing the visitors 6-1 in the return leg at Stoney Lane including a brace from the wonderfully named Albert Flewitt.
City obviously weren’t good travellers in those days as they lost to Small Heath (today’s Birmingham City) 8-0 in their final Test Match. After the series, Albion and Division Two champions, Liverpool, were invited to take their places in Division One. Albion beat Blackburn Rovers 3-2 in their final match but still finished bottom, but the Test Matches meant Small Heath were relegated despite finishing above Albion in the table.
The first meeting in a regular season game was three years later after City had won promotion (without the need for a Test Match) as Division Two champions in 1899. The first meeting was in December of that year at Stoney Lane, and it finished 0-0. That is a rare result between the sides though, with many fixtures producing a glut of goals over the years and the fixture averaging 3.3 goals. The most came at the Hawthorns in September 1957 when eleven goals were shared not very equally with the hosts bagging nine with strikes from Frank Griffin (3), Don Howe (2), Roy Horobin, Derek Kevan, Brian Whitehouse and Bobby Robson. City netted twice in reply through Paddy Fagan and Roy Clarke. Albion’s biggest win at City came at Maine Road in January 1934 – Ginger Richardson grabbed a hat trick, Walter Robbins a brace with Joe Carter and Teddy Sandford also scoring in a 7-2 victory. At the other end of the scale, City’s record win over Albion came just four years later when Eric Brook scored four goals, including two penalties, in a 7-1 win.
This fixture has taken place at Wembley on two occasions with City victorious on both occasions. City were League Champions in 1968 and took on FA Cup winners Albion in the “traditional curtain raiser” in August of that year. It proved to be a one-sided affair as the League Champions scored six and Dick Krzywicki’s goal for Albion was somewhat less famous than Jeff Astle’s at the same venue some three months earlier. Just under two years later, it was on the occasion of the League Cup Final – Astle scored another Wembley goal but a Glyn Pardoe strike in extra time won the cup for City.
The big news from the Albion camp is that first choice ‘keeper, Ben Foster, is ruled out for at least four weeks with a cartilage injury picked up in last week’s match against Stoke. Welshman, Boaz Myhill, will deputise with youngster Jack Rose set to take Myhill’s place on the bench. Skipper Christ Brunt is also ruled out following his suspension for verbally abusing officials after the FA Cup quarter final. Callum McManaman remains sidelined while Anichebe is also a doubt. The front pair of Berahino and Ideye look to have recovered from their knocks and are expected to both start once again.
The hosts, on the other hand, have a fully fit squad available, although I would expect a few changes from the side that lost at the Nou Camp.
City have a wonderful squad and will start the game as strong favourites, although City’s recent record of four defeats from their last five games does give the visitors a little hope. Furthermore, an early Saturday kick-off after a Wednesday evening away tie in Europe could mean that City might be a little weary, but their squad is fit enough, big enough and, more importantly, talented enough to overcome such a minor disadvantage.
I fully expect a backs-to-the-wall defensive plan from Pulis, and I doubt the TV audience will be too entertained should it be successful. An early goal for the hosts could open it up but I would be surprised if Albion were on the end of a hammering given their defensive solidity in recent weeks.
I doubt that the neutrals will be overly entertained, but I predict that City will just have too much and Albion to suffer a narrow defeat.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
26 Dec 2014 – Premier League
West Brom 1 (Ideye)
Manchester City 3 (Fenando, Toure (pen), Silva)
Last meeting at Manchester City
21 Apr 2014 – Premier League
Manchester City 3 (Zabaletta, Aguero, Dimichelis)
West Brom 1 (Dorrans)
22 Sep 2010 – League Cup 3rd Round
West Brom 2 (Zuiverloon, Cox)
Manchester City 1 (Jo)
Last win at Manchester City
1 Feb 2003 – Premier League
Manchester City 1 (Gilchrist (o.g.))
West Brom 2 (Clement, Moore)
Albion’s Record against Manchester City
|Premier League Record|