West Brom vs Sunderland - Match preview and team news
West Brom overcame their poor run of form in their last league outing against Liverpool and will be looking to continue from their win against Sunderland at the Hawthorns. The visitors have five wins in their last 11 matches to calm fears of relegation on Wearside.
The Baggies defeated Sunderland 4-2 at the Stadium of Light four months ago to send them to dizzying heights of third in the table. Steve Clarke’s side were in that position on merit, but an uncomfortable bump over Christmas has seen the Baggies fall to ninth in the table. That 2-0 victory at Anfield last Monday will give Clarke confidence and with seven home wins this season, there are foundations in place to better last season’s 10th place finish under current England manager Roy Hodgson. However, the last home victory was against Norwich on the 22nd December, so West Brom will hope that fact can be changed against the Black Cats.
Clarke has the difficult task of whether or not to recall Peter Odemwingie, whose attempt to force a move to QPR on deadline day failed and left him in hot bother with the West Brom fans. Defender Goran Popov is still suspended following his red card against Tottenham. On-loan Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku could be in line for a start after coming off the bench to score the second against Liverpool, which would see Shane Long drop to the substitutes.
Sunderland only had two victories in the first 15 games of the season, but nerves have been calmed. Defensively, the Black Cats have been solid with Albion the only side to score more than three goals past them this season. Frustrations have come for Martin O’Neill in attack with only 28 goals for Sunderland and Steven Fletcher has 10 of those. The January addition of Danny Graham could ease the burden as they look to climb into the top half of the table.
Three games without a win could see O’Neill grant Graham his first start in a Sunderland shirt with the emphasis on scoring the goals to fire Sunderland upwards. Danny Rose is likely to be ruled out with a hamstring worry, while Lee Cattermole is nursing a knee problem and will miss out. West Brom are unbeaten in their last six Premier League fixtures with Sunderland and O’Neill’s side have won once against top-half opposition this season.
West Brom were strong in defence against Liverpool and will be hopeful to build on that clean sheet at home this Saturday. The development of Lukaku as a goalscoring striker will please Clarke and he could pose a threat to a strong Sunderland backline. With both sides well rooted in defence, it could take a moment of magic to break the deadlock for either side.