After securing a nervy passage to Wembley in the Capital One Cup semi-finals at Bramall Lane on a snowy Wednesday night, Tottenham Hotspur must focus their attentions on the Premier League as the race for the fourth positions heats up with every passing week.
As many as six teams look to slug it out for just two positions with 16 games remaining, and every game is just as important as the next. They visit West Bromwich Albion on Saturday who have gotten out of a rut since the sacking of Alan Irvine and have tightened up defensively, something that was a given once Tony Pulis took over.
Currently 14th in the table, West Brom flirted with the relegation zone having won just once in 10 games before Pulis’ arrival, while Tottenham recovered well after a tough start themselves and are now in 6th place, just two points behind bitter rivals Arsenal and three points off fourth placed Manchester United.
The Baggies won away at Birmingham City 2-1 to progress to the 5th round of the FA Cup in their last match and will be hoping to exploit any hangover that Spurs might harbour after being pushed to their limits and almost dragged to extra time by League One outfit Sheffield United.
West Brom claimed three points at White Hart Lane when the two sides met in September earlier this season thanks to a second-half header from James Morrison in what was the Midland club’s first win at Tottenham for 30 years. The two sides played out a pulsating 3-3 draw in the corresponding fixture last April as the visitors came back from 3-0 down to snatch a late point through an injury time goal from Christian Eriksen.
West Brom: New signing Callum Mcanaman is expected to feature against Spurs having signed from Wigan just a couple of days back. Boaz Myhill and Jonas Olsson are the only two injured players for the home side, although Youssouf Mulumbu and Jason Davidson are away on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations and the Asian Cup respectively.
Tottenham Hotspur: Nabir Bentaleb is on international duty at the African Cup on Nations with Algeria while Spurs will be hoping that Nacer Chadli returns from his leave after taking time off due to personal reasons.
West Bromwich Albion: 4-5-1: Foster; Wisdom, McAuley, Lescott, Baird; Berahino, Gardner, Yacob, Morrison, Brunt; Anichebe
Tottenham Hotspur: 4-2-3-1: Vorm; Walker, Dier, Vertonghen, Rose; Stambouli, Mason; Lamela, Eriksen, Townsend, Kane
Last Five Meetings
21 Sep 2014 Tottenham Hotspur 0 – 1 West Bromwich Albion Premier League
12 Apr 2014 West Bromwich Albion 3 – 3 Tottenham Hotspur Premier League
26 Dec 2013 Tottenham Hotspur 1 – 1 West Bromwich Albion Premier League
03 Feb 2013 West Bromwich Albion 0 – 1 Tottenham Hotspur Premier League
25 Aug 2012 Tottenham Hotspur 1 – 1 West Bromwich Albion Premier League
West Brom have scored the joint least goals in the Premier League alongside Sunderland (7).
West Brom have the best disciplinary record in the Premier League with 33 yellow cards and just the one red card.
After Everton (53%), Tottenham (52%) and West Brom (51%) record the most shots from outside the box.
West Brom are joint third (8) in the number of set-pieces scored so far this season in the Premier League while Spurs are joint fourth (7).
Tony Pulis has never been relegated as manager for 23 years since he started with Bournemouth back in 1992. He has managed the likes of Bristol City, Portsmouth, Stoke City (twice), and Crystal Palace last season.
West Brom have won three and drawn one game conceding just one goal since Pulis took charge of them earlier this month.
In the last six matches between the West Brom and Tottenham, only once has either side scored more than one goal (3-3 in April, 2014)
Tottenham average the least percentage of their shots from within the 18-yard box (42%) while West Brom average the third least (44%).
West Brom: Saido Berahino
No goals in 11 appearances put a blotch on the 21-year-old’s bright start to the season, but he bounced back in style with six goals in three games at the start of January, four of them coming in the 7-0 thrashing of Gateshead in the FA Cup. With Victor Anichebe’s brace at St. Andrews, the Nigerian is expected to start upfront which would mean pushing out the young English striker who is capable of playing on either wing as well as just off the number 9.
Anichebe though has bagged just one goal in the league so far and Berahino (9) is miles ahead of West Brom’s next best scorer, defender Craig Dawson who has scored twice. Therefore, the onus very much lies on Berahino to deliver the goods as he did in the 1-0 win over Hull with a thumping indirect freekick. With 2.4 shots per game, he is the home side’s only real threat going forward with defensive solidarity the key focus of Pulis as he will look to stifle the visitor’s attacks and look to hit them on the counter.
Tottenham Hotspur: Christian Eriksen
The Danish international is an immensely gifted player as he demonstrated once again in the 2-2 draw at Sheffield in midweek.
He scored a late goal to win the tie for Tottenham, something which he has been doing consistently in the league surpassing his tally of seven league goals from last season already.
2.8 shots per game on an average is a significant rise from the 1.9 from last season although the assists have dried up despite the dip in key passes not being alarming (2.4 down from 2.7). With a crisp passing accuracy of 83.8 %, Spurs will be relying on Eriksen’s partnership with Harry Kane to deliver the goods at the Hawthorns.
Expect the Tony Pulis revolution to continue at the Hawthorns and West Brom to frustrate Tottenham and eke out a narrow win.