Premier League | Liberty Stadium | Sat 15 Mar | 3pm
A relegation six-pointer, but in the Grade II class.
Having held official board-level talks to establish why West Brom hadn't won in six games under new boss Pepe Mel, the mood around The Hawthorns won't have been lightened by a 3-0 defeat to fellow strugglers Manchester United.
- Swansea 1-1 Palace (Prem)
- Napoli 3-1 Swansea (EL)
- Liverpool 4-3 Swansea (Prem)
- Swansea 0-0 Napoli (EL)
- Everton 3-1 Swansea (FAC)
WEST BROM FORM
- WBA 0-3 Man Utd (Prem)
- WBA 1-1 Fulham (Prem)
- WBA 1-1 Chelsea (Prem)
- Palace 3-1 WBA (Prem)
- WBA 1-1 Liverpool (Prem)
The only positive of Señor Mel's brief spell in charge up to that point had been the Baggies' home form – three of their four draws under the Spaniard had come at home to Everton, Liverpool and Chelsea. The fact that each time they'd fallen behind yet fought back to share the points suggested they at least had spirit and some fight. Until last weekend against Manchester United that is, when they went down without much of a whimper.
They could argue the game changed on the red Robin van Persie didn't see for his lusty lunge on Steven Reid, but they know better than to waste their breath; West Brom got what they deserved. Something's not right, and leaked secrets and shady whispers suggest some of the club's more opinionated players haven't taken to Mel's methods – which thus far have included pressing higher up the pitch and switching off at set-pieces. They probably also don't like that he don't speak no proper English neither, nor that they don't have the sort of pally relationship other players have with their gaffers.
Take Swansea, for example, where they're allowed to call the manager (interim) Garry Monk by his nickname, 'Monks'. It's a predictably atrocious epithet but one that suggests a more convivial atmosphere than at The Hawthorns. Then again, maybe that's more down to the fact the Swans have had 13 days 'off' since their last game, a 1-1 draw at home to Crystal Palace.
"We have (had) a bit of time to work on a few ideas and things Monks wants to do," explained Ashley 'Ash' Williams, by which he probably means set-pieces, as Michael Laudrup never really bothered much.
In truth the Swans deserved a break, after a spell of seven games in 21 days of Monks taking charge. Those seven games produced just one win – a 3-0 defeat of Cardiff in Monksy's first game – three draws and three losses. On top of the six defeats in eight games that sealed Laudrup's sacking, the run has sucked the Swans down the table – they now find themselves just five points clear of the drop zone. But there's no panic, not yet.
Impressive performances at Anfield and Napoli's Stadio San Paolo in particular, plus the return of key players from injury, suggest the Swans possess far too much quality to be dragged down among the deadweights.
Last season’s top scorer Michu is set to return after 10 weeks out with an ankle injury. So too Pablo Hernandez and Jonjo Shelvey, who have both recovered from hamstring injuries. Defender Chico, however, is banned.
This is bad news for the Baggies, who have captain Chris Brunt out for up to six weeks with a knee injury. Steven Reid (knee) and Claudio Yacob (hamstring) are also doubtful, while Diego Lugano (knee) will definitely miss out and is expected to be sidelined for up to four weeks. Nicolas Anelka is still missing through suspension, and while full-back Billy Jones is making “good progress” after his own hamstring tear, he probably won't feature.
Player to watch: Wilfried Bony (Swansea)
The Ivorian is hard to miss. His nine league goals have been crucial to Swansea this season, particularly with Michu missing for a large chunk of it. He plays to his strengths, he says. "I am not a running player, running right and left... I like to use my power. If you have time to put in a cross do it because you know I am good with my head. Give me the ball." His winner at Old Trafford in the FA Cup proved the point, but Bony poses a threat at both ends. Against Liverpool at Anfield, he won 7 of his 9 aerial duels. No other player on either side went up for anywhere near as many – Angel Rangel's 2 from 3 was the next best return.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- WBA 0-2 Swans (Prem, Sep 13)
- WBA 2-1 Swans (Prem, Mar 13)
- Swans 3-1 WBA (Prem, Nov 12)
- WBA 1-2 Swans (Prem, Feb 12)
- Swans 3-0 WBA (Prem, Sep 11)
Garry 'Monks' Monk has impressed since taking the reins last month, even if Swansea's results haven’t. Their quicker-tempo possession game has returned, and they pushed both Liverpool and Napoli hard in heroic defeats. Popular with the players, he just needs to convince Huw Jenkins to give him the job on a permanent basis. Failing that – and given the fact his wife just gave birth to twin boys – he'll happily trouser the £500,000 bonus for securing the club's place in the Premier League for another season. If they are to survive, he may or may not believe 40 points should be enough. "Mathematically people say (that) will mean you are safe, and that is true," he said. "But I don’t look at it like that. It’s just about the next game."
Meanwhile, Mel spoke at length about the importance of Saturday's game, only he was talking in funny Spanish and we couldn’t make head nor tail of it. Off with his head.
Facts and figures
- West Brom have trailed at half-time in 6 of their 7 games since Pepe Mel took charge.
- Swansea have won half their last 10 home games against bottom-six sides with just 1 defeat.
- 7 of Swansea’s last 8 home wins have been by more than 1 goal.
- West Brom have lost 4 of 5 matches against Swansea since 2011/12.
- 11 of West Brom’s last 15 trips to bottom-half teams have had at least 3 goals.
Best Bet: First Half Win @ 2.50
More FFT Stats Zone facts • Find the best odds with Bet Butler
The reinvigorated hosts should have too much tempo for the Baggies. 2-0.