Premier League | The Hawthorns | Sat 21 Sep | 3pm
"No, really, we've GOT to win this one."
Only Gareth McAuley's late, late equaliser at Craven Cottage prevented this being a battle between two teams with a point apiece from four Premier League games. As it is, it's a clash between hosts who haven't scored at home and visitors whose two trips have yielded just five efforts on target.
WEST BROM FORM
- Fulham 1-1 West Brom (Prem)
- West Brom 0-2 Swansea (Prem)
- West Brom 3-0 Newport (LC)
- Everton 0-0 West Brom (Prem)
- West Brom 0-1 So'ton (Prem)
- Sunderland 1-3 Arsenal (Prem)
- Palace 3-1 Sunderland (Prem)
- Sunderland 4-2 MK Dons (LC)
- So'ton 1-1 Sunderland (Prem)
- Sunderland 0-1 Fulham (Prem)
It's hard to know who needs the points more, but it's easy to imagine that a loss for either manager will ratchet up the fearful accusations of inexperience. Although it may be harsh to judge a manager five games into a season, each team's trouble dates back longer than that, and neither of these young bosses can point to a previous occasion on which he has arrested such a slide.
Paolo Di Canio has not obviously improved Sunderland. Their last 19 league games - half a season - have yielded 12 points; six of those came in the wins Di Canio masterminded against Newcastle and Everton, since when their league form has been LDDLLDLL.
But if Sunderland had to travel anywhere, they couldn't pick a better place than The Hawthorns. West Brom haven't won at home in six games since early March, losing four of them, and have lost both this season's home games to nil. Again, it's indicative of a long-term malaise: Steve Clarke's side have just 17 points from 19 games, eight from the last 13.
Neither manager can expect to be sacked if he loses, but he can expect to be questioned; the forums of the vanquished will ring with anguish as the name-the-successor game begins in anger. To Pulis or not to Pulis? That will be the question.
The goalphobic Baggies will almost certainly still be missing Shane Long (knee-knack) and Matej Vydra (hamstring), although Zoltan Gera and Steven Reid have been stepping up their returns in a private friendly against Swindon, and Stephane Sessegnon has conquered the work-permit red-tape jungle.
Sunderland have the welcome-back bunting out for club captain John O'Shea, sent to the naughty step for his red card at Palace, and Emmanuele Giaccherini, who missed the Arsenal game with a tight hamstring.
Player to watch: Stephane Sessegnon (WBA)
Another game, another hoped-for West Brom saviour. After Scott Sinclair, Saido Berahino and The Returning Nicolas Anelka, this week it's Stephane Sessegnon. The Beninese box of tricks is capable of brilliance on his day; trouble is, his days aren't as frequent as they might be.
Frequently either unplayable or unpickable, Sessegnon scored in both Di Canio's wins and then never completed another game for the Italian - sent off at Villa, hauled off in this season's first two games, binned off thereafter, bundled off to The Hawthorns for £5.5m on deadline day and slagged off in the press by his former manager. He will therefore make it his business to destroy Di Canio's day… or so Clarke will hope.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- West Brom 2-1 Sunderland (Prem, Feb 13)
- Sunderland 2-4 West Brom (Prem, Nov 12)
- West Brom 4-0 Sunderland (Prem, Feb 12)
- Sunderland 2-2 West Brom (Prem, Sep 11)
- Sunderland 2-3 West Brom (Prem, Apr 11)
Couldn't be more polarised in personality: calm, quiet Caledonian Clarke and "fiery Latin" (attention @FootballCliches) Di Canio. But both are often happy to let the opposition have majority possession - only once in their combined eight matches this term have West Brom or Sunderland seen more of the ball - and both are facing the biggest challenge of their nascent top-flight management careers. It should make for a fascinating day of tactics and touchline decisions.
Facts and figures
- Nicolas Anelka has scored seven in 10 league appearances against Sunderland.
- Steven Fletcher has scored three in four league appearances against West Brom.
- The Baggies have won six and lost none of the last seven league meetings with Sunderland.
- WBA are the only side to started in a 4-4-2 formation in all of their PL fixtures this season. It has brought them a total of only one goal.
- Sunderland have conceded more second-half goals than any other side this season (6).
- Jonas Olsson has made more clearances than any other Premier League player this season (53).
- The Baggies have won none of their last eight league games; they last went on a longer Premier League winless run in April 2009 (11 games).
- West Bromwich Albion have conceded a total of 14 goals in their last six league games at The Hawthorns.
- The Black Cats have scored a total of seven goals in their last nine league games, with six of those matches seeing fewer than three goals netted overall.
Potentially fascinating, possibly awful, probably low-scoring. 1-0 to the Albion, but it won't be Di Canio's fault.
West Brom vs Sunderland LIVE ANALYSIS with Stats Zone