When the fixtures are released, every fan in the country wants to see when the local derby is scheduled for. Luckily for West Brom fans they will have to wait no longer, as Birmingham make the short trip to the Hawthorns on Saturday.
With the Baggies only being able to win one of their Midland derbies in the Premier League, their recent home form is something in which they will be concentrating on going into the weekend.
Roberto Di Matteo is one of those keen to forget that fact ahead of his first Birmingham derby. After experiencing derby days with Chelsea, the former centre midfield dynamo believes the players will be just as excited as the fans.
West Brom have been unfortunate this season against both Tottenham and away to Liverpool, although the Italian believes that derby game will have no bearing on any recent form. “I think derbies add spice to the season. Derbies have no rules. There are no favourites as far as my experience goes,” said the ex-Chelsea man at the pre match press conference. “If one team is second and you’re bottom then it means nothing but when you’re involved in it you hear supporters make comments, the papers focus on it, there’s history. It’s different to normal games.”
Di Matteo is also said be relishing a clash with a new friend and rival Alex Mcleish, as he believes ‘Big Eck’ has done a tremendous job for Birmingham. The blue half of Birmingham finished ninth last season, after being promoted from the Championship, something which the Baggies boss believes is a ‘fantastic achievement’. The performances by the likes of Roger Johnson and Scott Dann have established the St Andrews outfit as a resilient and tricky team to overcome.
The Baggies boss came close to his counterpart as he got to know the Scottish manager when they travelled together to watch the UEFA Champions League final in Madrid. “Alex is a good guy,” said the Hawthorns head coach. “We went to see the final in Madrid with a corporate package so we got to know each other then.
“He’s a nice guy. We talked a little bit about football and he did a great job last year in the Premier League. They seemed to struggle to get out of the Championship but had a fantastic season in the Premier League. They did very well. We don’t really share the same footballing philosophies but we got on well.
They have signed some very good players, they’ve spent a few quid and did well last year. I went to watch them on Sunday against Liverpool but, to be honest; I knew them already so I didn’t learn that much new.”
Defender Gabriel Tamas is also looking forward to the fixture, as he now feels at home with his defensive colleagues. Gonzalo Jara, Jonas Olsson and Nicky Shorey have all fitted in nicely and the Romanian believes the togetherness of the back-line is promising for the rest of the campaign, ”as a team if you use the same players it unites something. After a few games you know the other players, know what they doing and know what they want to do. It’s important for defender as we play together a lot and it becomes vital to how we will react.”
The team sheet for the weekend could include the name of Graham Dorrans after his return from injury and missing training through a family bereavement. The midfielder is likely to be give the team a much needed boost as his goals last season were at the heart of West Brom’s promotion push.
There are no new injury problems which will please the boss and he could name an unchanged side, if he decides to keep Dorrans on the bench. Marek Cech and Ishmael Miller are out injured and Joe Mattock still not right after an ankle injury. James Morrison will also miss the game, as he serves the second game on a three match suspension.