In the first Monday night fixture of the season, West Brom host Manchester City at the Hawthorns. The Citizens will be hoping to improve upon the defensive frailties they displayed recently, when they conceded four goals apiece against Real Madrid and then Stuttgart. Last season’s runner-ups have a few players lacking match fitness following their late return from international duty at the Copa America and it could prevent them from fielding a full-strength starting XI.
City asked the Premier League for an opening-day away game as they expand Etihad Stadium and Manuel Pellegrini will be hoping that he starts the new campaign with a win, having extended his contract until 2017.
The home side had been just a point off the drop zone with just four wins from 19 when Tony Pulis took over Alan Irvine’s job in December last season. Half a season was more than enough for the former Stoke City manager to turn things around with his side finishing in a respectable 13th position. Work begins from the off this time around and West Brom should push for a top half finish.
The departure of Youssuf Mulumbu to Norwich City on a free transfer will be a blow but West Brom have been able to hold on to last season’s top scorer Saido Berahino for now. The likes of Rickie Lambert, James Chester (second biggest club signing at £8m) and James Mclean are more than useful signings and will help West Brom to steer clear of a relegation scrap, something their fans have been more than used to in the noughties.
Ben Foster is out injured till October with a knee injury which means Boaz Myhill gets to start West Brom’s season opener.
Gareth McAuley should have recovered from a thigh problem and is expected to feature. New boy Lambert should start upfront along with Berahino.
Joleon Lescott missed two days of training this week and is a doubt to face his former club. Serge Gnabry, on loan from Arsenal, will be unavailable for the match as he joined after the registration deadline.
Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Samir Nasri were down with illness that resulted in them missing City’s season launch party on Wednesday. Pellegrini however confirmed that the trio is available for the opener.
“Aguero is working at 100% and so is Silva – Nasri is just returning,” he said
Gael Clichy has an ankle injury and is likely to miss out along with new signing Fabian Delph who suffered a hamstring injury minutes into his City debut.
The likes of Pablo Zabaleta and Martin Demichelis along with Aguero as well as Fernandinho came back to pre-season training towards the end of July because of the Copa America and will be lacking match fitness. They were missing from the pre-season tour and didn’t feature in their last friendly against Stuttgart on Saturday. Fernando too hasn’t featured in the recent friendlies and City may feature a slightly unbalance midfield with Nasri or Silva playing a deeper role.
Yaya Toure missed the Vietnam and Stuttgart games after taking a knock from Keylor Navas but he is expected to start on Monday. Wilfried Bony meanwhile played only 45 minutes in Germany.
Recent Head To Head
21 Mar 2015: Manchester City 3 – 0 West Brom Premier League
26 Dec 2014: West Brom 1 – 3 Manchester City Premier League
21 Apr 2014: Manchester City 3 – 1 West Brom Premier League
04 Dec 2013: West Brom 2 – 3 Manchester City Premier League
07 May 2013: Manchester City 1 – 0 West Brom Premier League
In a bizarre opening couple of minutes at the Etihad, Wilfried Bony was fouled by Craig Dawson but referee Neil Swarbrick sent off Gareth McAuley whom he deemed had fouled the Ivorian striker as the last man. The FA later transferred the ban onto Dawson but City cantered to a 3-0 victory with Bony getting his first goals in blue.
West Brom pre-season: LLWWWWL
Man City pre-season: WWDLWL
- Each of the last five Premier League champions started their title season on Monday Night Football.
- West Brom’s last five season openers have all been at The Hawthorns, with the 3-0 win over Liverpool in 12/13 their only win.
- Manchester City are unbeaten in their last six season openers in the Premier League, winning 5 of those.
- West Brom finished 4th in a 22 team First Division back in 1980/1981. Since then they have finished in the top half of the table just twice: 11/12 (10th) and 12/13 (8th).
- West Brom scored the most headed goals in the Premier League last season (16).
- City have won four of their last five Premier League visits to The Hawthorns, drawing the other one.
- City have beaten West Brom in their past 7 league meetings, losing only 1 of the last 11 in all competitions.
- City have scored 3 goals in each of their last four games against West Brom.
- Of the teams to survive last season, West Brom (38) scored more goals than just Sunderland and Aston Villa (31 each).
- Under Pulis, West Brom kept 10 clean sheets in 18 games, more than any other Premier League club during that period.
- Saido Berahino scored 20 goals in all competitions in 2014/15, 13 more than any other West Brom player. In the Premier League, he scored 14 which was 10 more than any other Baggies player.
- 4 of the last 6 meetings between the two sides have resulted in both teams scoring but City emerging winners.
West Brom: Rickie Lambert
After a torrid season at Anfield, Lambert moves on to pasture new where he will be guaranteed playing time, something which his boyhood club couldn’t give him. New life began with a quick fire brace hours after signing for West Brom. Apart from his hold up play and set-piece ability, he is an intelligent football who can spot a pass. In two seasons with Southampton in the top-flight, his return of 28 goals and 15 assists was pretty solid.
His presence in the box will be aided by the addition of wingers in Tony Pulis’ intended style of play this season. McClean and McManaman will have the former Southampton man waiting for them to deliver crosses all day long and a more counter attacking West Brom will benefit Lambert who won’t be expected to run into channels. If Berahino stays, the 21-year-old will have someone capable to play-off and it won’t be a surprise if he overtakes last season’s tally. With Lambert in the team though, his burden would undoubtedly be eased.
Man City: Raheem Sterling:
The most expensive English footballer in history might have some burden on him because of his £49m price tag. He has looked like the player City made their priority to sign this season in the pre-season. He was the stand-out player and is sure to hit the ground running at the Hawthorns. In City’s attacking set-up, he will receive better service from the likes of Silva and Toure, and with Aguero playing alongside, there is only an upward trajectory the 20 year-old’s career can take.
He had increasingly come to the fore as one of Liverpool’s best player and last season at the age of 19, was relied upon to provide the moment of magic along with Coutinho.
Even though it was an ugly end to his career at Anfield, he will be keen to display why he is so highly rated and focus on the football. Capable of playing on either wind as well as lone upfront, he will run the channels and link up with the fullbacks. West Brom will be very concerned if they have anyone from their backline in a one on one situation with Sterling.
A tight City win. 2-1, Sterling to score/assist.