This weekend’s action see’s West Brom welcome high flying Southampton to the Hawthorns on Saturday afternoon. With the home side looking to consolidate their resurgence under Tony Pulis and Southampton wanting to bounce back from a sore defeat at home to Liverpool we could be in for a game in the midlands. Over their history the two sides have been very evenly matched, Southampton only managing one more victory Albion than Albion have over them. With only one loss since taking over at West Brom, Tony Pulis has managed to see West Brom’s name drift out the relegation conversation. Even is the Baggies are only 5 points above the drop zone, it is widely accepted that they will be able to continue to navigate away from the bottom 3 spots. Southampton meanwhile, had kept themselves in the battle for a Champion’s League spot. Their home defeat to Liverpool last week was a big dent in their European aspirations as it saw them drop below both Arsenal and Man United into 5th place. With the race for the top 4 set to be the most intriguing as the season reaches its culmination, Koeman will know that he need’s his side to get straight back into putting wins on the board. But, a trip to a West Brom side who are proving difficult to break down is by no means an easy place to go in search of rediscovering your momentum.
West Brom’s only injury concern heading into the match at the weekend is striker Victor Anichebe. The big Nigerian is struggling with a groin strain butis schedule to recover by the weekend. It would be unlikely that Anichebe will return to the side for Southampton match, but he may find a spot on the bench depending to how well he has overcame the groin strain.
Southampton will travel to the Hawthorn’s with the same injuries they have been dealing with for the past few weeks. Defender Toby Alderweireld’s expected return date is this weekend, however it would be unlikely that he immediately walks back into the team as his fitness will still be in question. Other long term injuries for the Saints include; Lloyd Isgrove, Jay Rodriguez, Emmanuel Mayuka and Sam Gallagher
Last the two sides met at the Hawthorns Southampton won 1-0 back in August 2013
Last time West Brom beat Southampton was in April 2013. They were 3-0 victors at St Mary’s
Sides have only met 9 times in the Premier League era. West Brom have won on 3 occasions, Southampton also winning 3 and the sides drawing the other 3 meetings
In the past the game has usually been won by the home side. Both sides have at least a 50% win record at home
West Brom have only been beaten at the Hawthorns 6 times in 31 meetings there against Southampton
West Brom hold the largest victory of the fixture, winning 5-1`against Southampton back in the 1929/30 season
West Bromwich Albion: Darren Fletcher
The former Manchester United midfielder and Scotland captain is of a certain pedigree. You don’t have a career with Manchester united coming out of there youth system for as long as Fletcher did without having something special. Not the most talented footballer to grace a Premier League pitch, but Fletcher has a work ethic and vast amount of experience that could be priceless to West Brom as they look to stave off relegation. In a match against a top team like Southampton who will be on the hunt for 3 points, West Brom will need to make sure they keep their discipline as the opposition may be unrelenting in their attempts to claim victory. Darren Fletcher is a player that will be able to marshal the midfield he is placed in and organize the team around him, while putting in a gut busting individual performance not giving any of his opposing midfielders and chance to settle and dictate the game. Fletcher could cause serious problems for Southampton’s players who will want time to dictate tempo and build attacking plays, while also making sure the rest of his side are in order to stop the advancing Southampton forces.
Southampton: Eljero Elia
Elia was na added boost to the Southampton squad when they needed it. After a tough run of fixtures before Christmas seemed to have decimated the Saint’s European ambition, koeman took to the January transfer window to freshen up his side. Elia entered with a reputation that he had not reached the potential everyone thought he had, Southampton could be the place he changes that opinion. He took to life in the Premier League like a duck to water, scoring twice in a 2-1 victory over Newcastle and playing every game since he signed. In a game that will see Southampton face the formidable task opf breaking down a Tony Pulis team, Elia may have that piece of individual magic to unlock the home side. His pace and direct style of attack will prove a test for West Brom’s defence to deal with and as she showed a against Newcastle he is capable of taking an advantage he has and turning it into a game winning performance
It’s a tough one to call at the Hawthorns. A Tony Pulis side rarely get beat at home, but Southampton have shown a quality this year to dispatch bottom half teams and even top half opposition. A win for West Brom would go a long way towards putting some serious distance between them and the teams below them. But, Southampton will know that the table is tight around that 3rd till 7th spot with only 4 points separating the two. Dropping points at the weekend could see them lose further ground in that race for a Champions League spot and end the weekend as low as 7th. Pulis against a side like Southampton may see a draw as a could result here and pick different battles between now and the end of the season to pick up 3 points. If this is the case breaking down a Pulis side that are happy with a draw could prove to be a herculean task for Koeman and his men
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