Unstoppable force versus occasional unstoppable force-stoppers.
Manuel Pellegrini has got a craggy face particularly suited to wide grins and pleasurable purring, and the avuncular Manchester City
boss has spent the last month basking in his City side’s dazzling magnificence. He is delivering upon his very specifically assigned brief – to win matches in style – in spades, as normally respectable and resilient football outfits have had their trousers publicly yanked down.
WEST BROM FORM
- Newcastle 2-1 West Brom (Prem)
- West Brom 2-2 Aston Villa (Prem)
- Chelsea 2-2 West Brom (Prem)
- West Brom 2-0 Palace (Prem)
- Liverpool 4-1 West Brom (Prem)
MAN CITY FORM
- Man City 3-0 Swansea (Prem)
- Man City 4-2 Viktoria Plzen (CL)
- Man City 6-0 Tottenham (Prem)
- Sunderland 1-0 Man City (Prem)
- Man City 5-2 CSKA Moscow (CL)
It is a dreadful time to face Pellegrini’s men, but a few factors offer vague hope to Steve Clarke that they can avoid, at the very least, appalling humiliation. For one, City’s team bus must contain elements of kryptonite: they’ve lost their last two on the road, against Sunderland and Chelsea; Cardiff and Villa also beat them on their travels, while Stoke snatched a draw.
The twelfth-placed Baggies
have also fared competently against the bigger boys this term, beating Manchester United, drawing with Arsenal and being desperately unlucky not to grab a victory at Stamford Bridge. West Brom are unspectacular but sturdy, and should – in theory – be beyond a thrashing on their home patch, where they are unbeaten in four.
Gael Clichy, however, points out that third-placed City have been a tad unlucky during all of this term’s defeats. “We played better than the opposition,” he says. “This is a new team with a new manager and new players. We are only going to get better.”
It’s hard to disagree. City have prevailed in the last three meets between the two, and against Swansea on the weekend they illustrated that they can carve out decent results when not playing at their absolute best, too. Their juggernaut is thundering ominously, and the time feels right to finally reverse that baffling away form. Which could be very bad news for an unpredictable West Brom, and the rest of the Premier League in general.
The Baggies will be without suspended midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu, along with Nicolas Anelka, Scott Sinclair and Ben Foster.
City will be boosted by the return of captain and defensive kingpin Vincent Kompany after a thigh injury, but David Silva, Stevan Jovetic and Matija Nastasic remain benched.
Key battle: Shane Long vs Joleon Lescott
It will take something special if City are to be outgunned, and Long looks their best most lethal weapon. He scored a brace of blinders against Aston Villa – the first almost Bergkamp-esque – and the Baggies’ form man can be outstanding when given space to operate in.
Lescott, meanwhile, has a point to prove. With Brazil 2014 looming and his place on the plane in danger, he’s understandably dissatisfied with having been dropped in favour of Nastasic for much of the season. Shackling Long can help him prove a point to both Pellegrini and Roy Hodgson, and re-establish his place.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Man City 1-0 WBA (Prem, May 13)
- WBA 1-2 Man City (Prem, Oct 12)
- Man City 4-0 WBA (Prem, Apr 12)
- WBA 0-0 Man City (Prem, Dec 11)
- Man City 3-0 WBA (Prem, Feb 11)
The debut clash between Chilean and Scot. One is strike-hungry and already gunning for records: “all my teams normally score a lot of goals,” says Pellegrini. “I cannot forget about Real Madrid, where we scored more than 100 goals in a season.”
Clarke will thus be highly unlikely to deviate from his already effective robust, counter-attacking style of play, and hope that his speedy attacking options can catch City’s excellent but not impregnable defence on the hop.
Facts and figures
Tips and trends
TIPS & TRENDS
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- Since Steve Clarke took over, West Brom have beaten Liverpool, Everton and Chelsea at home while taking points off Manchester United and Arsenal.
- There have been three or more goals in six of the Baggies' last nine games when they have hosted top-six teams.
- For all of Manchester City’s thrashings dealt out at the Etihad this season, they have mustered just one win on the road, losing four of their last six with a W2 D2 L5 record in their last nine away games.
- There have been at least three goals in four of their six away trips this season, with three of those seeing four or more goals.
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Pellegrini’s powerhouses to finally end away hoodoo. 3-1 City.
West Brom vs Man City LIVE ANALYSIS with Stats Zone