Premier League: Tottenham looking to bag points at West Brom
TOTTENHAM visit West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League tomorrow (Saturday) minus injured England internationals Jermain Defoe and Michael Dawson.
Spurs may be looking ahead to their European trip to Werder Bremen but they cannot afford to take their eye off the ball, as they did against Wigan.
Tottenham face seven games in the next month before the next international break, and momentum and confidence will be vital during that run.
Victory in the Midlands would instantly provide both and, on the other side of the coin, anything less than victory will already leave the Lilywhites with plenty of catching up to do in the Premier League.
For West Brom fans, the ‘Baggie bounce’ and the ‘Boing boing’ song that accompanies it are knitted into the fabric of the club. However, Albion have probably taken that theme a bit too far during the last decade.
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The Midlands outfit have certainly taken the bouncing image to heart and, since winning a place in England’s top flight in 2002, they have swapped between the Premier League and the Championship for seven out of the last nine seasons.
The last time the Baggies found themselves in the company of Spurs, Tony Mowbray’s side finished bottom of the league with a meagre 32 points.
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However, they have sprung straight back up after finishing second in the Championship, 12 points ahead of third-placed Nottingham Forest.
The latest promotion was achieved under the management of Roberto Di Matteo, and the former Chelsea midfielder now faces the task of avoiding the Baggies’ usual bottom-three finish.
He will attempt to do so with a similar squad to the one which went down in 2009 and the core of the team is largely unchanged.
Goalkeeper Scott Carson is still protected by centre-back Jonas Olsson and left-back Marek Cech, while midfielders Chris Brunt, Youssuf Mulumbu, Graeme Dorrans and James Morrison are all familiar.
Up front, Marc-Antoine Fortune has returned to The Hawthorns after a season with Celtic, having initially followed Mowbray to Parkhead following the Baggies’ last fall from the top flight.
Di Matteo has lost Jonathan Greening to Fulham and Slovenia captain Robert Koren to Hull on free transfers, but he has also recruited new faces.
Romania international Gabriel Tamas has come in at centre-back, and he impressed against Liverpool at Anfield before the international break.
Free agent Paul Scharner has arrived after quitting Wigan and Di Matteo has also landed Nigerian forward Peter Odemwingie.
Other familiar names include ex-Reading and Aston Villa full-back Nicky Shorey, former Blackburn midfielder Steven Reid and goalkeeper ex-Hull keeper Boaz Myhill.
West Brom fans must have felt a severe case of deja vu as their return to the Premier League began with a 6-0 defeat at Chelsea but, since then, their situation has improved.
Odemwingie’s debut winner secured a 1-0 home win over Sunderland, which restored confidence, and the Baggies were slightly unfortunate to lose 1-0 to Liverpool at Anfield.
Di Matteo will be fully aware of the importance of West Brom’s home form this season so, as he prepares to host Tottenham, he will cherish the fact that his side have won their only fixture at The Hawthorns so far, against Sunderland – and with a clean sheet to boot.
Some of his players may also relay the fact that they beat Spurs the last time Harry Redknapp’s side came to visit, as late goals from Roman Bednar and Craig Beattie secured a 2-0 win in December 2008.
Of course, they may omit the fact that Tottenham played for 55 minutes with 10 men after Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s dismissal and that Bednar pushed Michael Dawson as he headed the 81st-minute opener.
The Baggies are likely to play 4-5-1 with Morrison supporting Fortune, while Brunt is a threat on the left flank. Shorey will stand in for the injured Cech at left-back.
Prediction: WBA 0 Spurs 2