15:00 BST, Saturday 28th October, The Hawthorns (Birmingham, England)
An impressive start to this season saw West Brom briefly flirting with the top of the table. However, the Baggies are now without a win in the league since August. Much of this is down to a lack of goals and although they have seven players joint at the top of their scoring charts this season, they’ve all only got a single goal apiece. Without a dependable striker to rely upon, they will need to find a way to stop the free-scoring Citizens spoiling their party on Saturday.
Pep Guardiola’s City keep marching forwards ominously this season with all before them failing to knock them out of their stride. During this push, they have managed to score ten more goals than the next highest Premiership scorers and also have a joint league low of four goals conceded. While they did almost come unstuck against the Baggies earlier this season in the Carabao Cup, City have had 12 consecutive wins against them. As a result, Saturday should prove to be an unlucky afternoon for Tony Pulis’ team.
Last Time Out
Southampton 1-0 West Bromwich Albion (Premier League)
One of the goals of the season proved to be enough to separate these two sides, a fact that will be of little comfort to West Brom fans who watched their team slide to yet another defeat. With the Saints having spent the majority of this season misfiring, it was the perfect opportunity for Tony Pulis to take a more attacking approach into the game. True to form, though, he stuck to a safety-first policy which produced a dour game on the South coast.
Jay Rodriguez could and maybe should have scored just after the break but, otherwise, West Brom failed to produce many chances of note from the game. With Salomón Rondón ploughing a lonely and fruitless furrow in attack, the Baggies midfield again proved unadventurous and it again led to them drawing a blank on the scoresheet.
Manchester City 0-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers [0-0 AET] [4-1 pens] (Carabao Cup)
The respective leaders of the Premier League and the Championship clashed in a goalless draw that was much more exciting than the result suggests. Wolves went after City from the first whistle, creating many of the games better chances and should consider themselves unlucky not to find a way through the City defence.
The Citizens had Claudio Bravo to thank for this win: the keeper making three crucial saves before proving his worth again with two more during the penalty shoot-out. While Guardiola blamed the type of ball used in the match for the lack of goals, there were no other games in the tournament which finished goalless which somewhat weakens his strange argument.
West Brom Lineup
Craig Dawson (knee), Jonny Evans (groin) and James Morrison (calf) will all definitely miss out this Saturday, while Gareth Barry (hamstring), Hal Robson-Kanu (muscular) and Oliver Burke (hamstring) are all doubts for the weekend. This will see Gareth McAuley making his first league start of the season and Claudio Yacob recalled to the starting lineup for the first time since the Baggies opening day victory over Bournemouth.
Manchester City Lineup
Long-term injuries to both Vincent Kompany (calf) and Benjamin Mendy (knee) continue to see them sit on the sidelines, with Ilkay Gündogan also joining them as he recovers from a knock. While this could leave a similar team to the one which started against Burnley, Pep Guardiola may decide to make some changes in light of their upcoming Champions League game, especially in attack which has seen less rotation than other areas of his team recently.
Key Battle: Claudio Yacob (West Bromwich Albion) vs Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City)
With West Brom’s current shortage in defence, the role of shielding his team could once again fall on the broad shoulders of Claudio Yacob. The defensive midfielder impressed during their opening day win and should consider himself unlucky not to have been involved more so far this season. With a wealth of options in this position for Tony Pulis to choose between, a solid display again this weekend could see Yacob force his way back into the reckoning though.
If Yacob is to be successful, he will need to find a way to stop this season’s man-of-the-moment, Kevin De Bruyne. De Bruyne has already made 8 assists along with his 2 goals this season, a clear sign that his vision in the game is producing tangible results. More than anything else, though, it is the way in which he makes the game look effortless. As an all-round player, De Bruyne seems to have it all. Tony Pulis will be looking for a way in to halt the midfielder’s good run when City travel to the Hawthorns.
Whenever West Brom or Tony Pulis are mentioned, defence is typically one of the words instantly conjured up through association. It’s therefore relatively surprising to find the Baggies on the cusp of a defensive crisis due to a lack of depth in this department of the squad.
With Craig Dawson receiving an injury at Southampton after colliding with Allen Nyom and captain Jonny Evans also suffering a lack of form through injury prior to this, West Brom currently have only four senior players available to them. One of these is the 37-year-old Gareth McAuley who must now find a way to turn back the years and steer his side back to winning ways.
A Sustainable Future
During the battling draw and eventual penalty win over Wolves on Wednesday, it became clear that Manchester City are only one or two injuries away from staring at trouble. The Citizens looked pale in comparison with a nervy, second-string defence and, more pointedly, without De Bruyne on the pitch dictating play. While City finished the game with a team closer to full strength on the field, it seems clear that they depend on their star names in the same way that their title rivals have stand-out players integral to their success.
The good news is that it emerged this week that City really do have another midfield prodigy waiting in the background for his chance. After an impressive pre-season with the first team, Phil Foden has been lighting up the Under-17’s World Cup in India. Rhian Brewster may have taken most of the plaudits from the 3-1 semifinal win over Brazil after his hat-trick, but Foden was again the Man of the Match as he directed play with a display that belied his age. While it’s easy to heap too much praise on a young player with everything still to prove, the future looks bright for both Foden and City.
Prediction: West Brom 0-3 Manchester City
West Brom were unlucky to finish as losers when these two teams met in the Carabao cup earlier this year. However, due to injury, Tony Pulis is unable to play the 5-man defence which proved so useful on that occasion. City may well have one eye on their Champions League encounter as games start to come at them thick and fast, although a goalless draw in midweek will have left them looking to prove a point at the Hawthorns.
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