After gaining a positive result in Europe in midweek, Manchester City continue their bid to finish in the Premier League’s top four as they entertain West Bromwich Albion.
It was far from a defensive masterclass, but a draw and two away goals against Paris St. Germain will have buoyed Man City, but they cannot lose focus on this encounter ahead of the second leg of that tie, which takes place on Tuesday. One thing is for sure is that this match will follow a much different pattern, as West Brom will look to get men behind the ball at every opportunity and try to snatch what they can on the break.
The return of Kevin de Bruyne to the City side has led to a rejuvenation of their attacking play, with the Belgian having been on the scoresheet in successive outings including a glorious finish at Bournemouth last weekend. That one turned out to be a resounding victory as they belied their dismal away run in the Premier League. With de Bruyne fit again and firing, the hope is now that David Silva can find a similar upturn in fortunes. If he can, then Manuel Pellegrini’s side will be tough to beat over the final weeks of the season.
There is considerably less for West Brom to play for as they sit in mid-table and have just about made it to the 40-point mark, but they still have realistic ambitions of a top-half finish, so will not lie down. Head Coach Tony Pulis will not permit such a thing regardless, so will not hold back in his attempts to frustrate the home side here. To do that he will be relying on his players to be compact and tough to penetrate, and few teams employ this tactic better than the Baggies, which is a measure of their discipline.
A similar result to the goalless draw they achieved at Sunderland would be very welcome, but they will hope that goalkeeper Ben Foster has a less busy afternoon. Foster was the sole reason why West Brom came away from Wearside with a point as he made save after save, potentially motivated by the injury to Stoke City’s Jack Butland, which meant that there is a place in the England squad for Euro 2016 very much up for grabs. Here, he will be one of a number of visiting players who be greeted with hostility due to their Manchester United connections.
Yaya Toure could be back for a Man City side still without the influence of Vincent Kompany and Raheem Sterling. Due to an ankle complaint, Silva will be rested.
Stephane Sessegnon is likely to feature for West Brom after missing the game at Sunderland following a late return from international duty.
Last Meeting: An early sending off and a case of mistaken identity overshadowed this fixture in March 2015 as West Brom’s Gareth McAuley saw red inside two minutes for an offence that was actually committed by teammate Craig Dawson. It paved the way for an easy home win as Wilfried Bony, Fernando and David Silva all got on the scoresheet.