David Moyes brings his Sunderland team to the Hawthorns this weekend fresh from a mid-week cup exit at Turf Moor and on a run of six matches without a win, while his opponent in the Baggies dug out will be looking to banish the 4-0 hammering his side were on the end of at White Hart Lane last weekend.
Sunderland are Albion’s favourite Premier League opponents having secured 34 points from 19 Premier League meetings, and winning six of the nine encounters at the Hawthorns. The last time the Black Cats were victorious in West Bromwich was a 2-1 win in a Championship fixture ten years ago when Stern John and Dwight Yorke put that season’s ultimate champions 2-0 ahead before Darren Carter pulled one back for the Baggies. Sunderland’s only Premier League win at the Hawthorns came the season before when a Steve Watson own goal proved to be the difference between the sides in the “Great Surrender” season. In fact, since Sunderland won 4-0 at the Stadium of Light in December 2008, Albion have lost just once to the Black Cats in 14 meetings (2-0 on Wearside in 2014), although four of the last five meetings have ended up all square.
Given Tottenham’s form, defeat at White Hart Lane was not really a surprise, but the size of the defeat was a little concerning. Spurs were very good, but Albion’s defending, normally so good, was not up to scratch although part of the reason could be put down to the absences of Jonny Evans and Allan Nyom. It does demonstrate just how thin the Baggies squad is, and with Evans not 100% guaranteed to be fit for Saturday, and Nyom still awaiting international clearance from the Cameroonian FA, we could see the same back four lining up this coming weekend.
The game with Sunderland is the first of a run of six fixtures against clubs below Albion in the table, four of which are at home, a run that could define the Baggies’ season. Albion could even hit the magic 40 points barrier before the end of February by winning their home games against Sunderland, Stoke and Bournemouth, and getting a point apiece at Boro’ and West Ham – that would be a remarkable achievement and would leave Albion needing to get just 10 points from their remaining 12 games to record their highest ever Premier League points total.
That may seem a tad optimistic, but having gone out of the FA Cup, securing a top half finish, a record points total and having an outside chance of European qualification is now all that Albion have left to play for. Back in 2013, when Steve Clarke had led Albion to the top three in November, they failed to win a game in January, went out to QPR in the cup and picked up just nine points from their last eleven games from the end of February. A repeat of that collapse in form would be very disappointing.
Albion need to reinforce in this window – there are signs that they are trying but, at the time of writing, nothing has been confirmed as yet although the signing of Jake Livermore seems to be close to completion. Yacob will pick up a two-game suspension at some point, so the need for cover in central midfield is obvious and the former Spurs man would be a welcome addition; Rondón has done a great job and Robson-Kanu, while he is a willing worker, he doesn’t have the Venezuelan’s physical presence and is not an adequate alternative; the unavailability of Nyom and Evans has exposed the lack of depth at the back and we are still relying on the 30+ players like Brunt, Morrison and Miracle McAuley to play week in, week out. Despite all those weaknesses, Albion are in a great position, and a few additions could make all the difference in breaking that 50-point barrier.
David Moyes’ tenure at the Stadium of Light has produced just four Premier League wins, only one of which has come away from Wearside. The 2-1 win at the Vitality Stadium in November was the Scotsman’s first league win in his time at the Black Cats and, while that was followed by back-to-back home wins against Hull and Leicester, there has been just one victory since, 1-0 against Watford in mid-December.
Sunderland’s meagre hopes of survival rest firmly on the shoulders of Jermain Defoe. The veteran striker has accounted for almost two thirds of the Black Cats’ Premier League goals this season, scoring 12 times including five from the penalty spot. Of the rest of the squad, only Patrick van Aanholt, who scored against Albion at the Stadium of Light in October, and former Baggie, Victor Anichebe, have scored more than once in the league with both grabbing three goals. Defoe is yet to score against the Baggies in a Sunderland shirt, although he has managed six goals in his eighteen appearances against Albion, the first coming at Upton Park in 2003 and was followed shortly afterwards by a red card in that remarkable game that finished 4-3 to the visitors.
Jonny Evans could well win his race for fitness for the match, with Chris Brunt also a slight doubt with a back strain – Albion hope to hear from FIFA on Friday as to whether Allan Nyom will be available for selection.
Baggies fans will not be surprised to hear that Victor Anichebe is among Sunderland’s long list of injured players and he, along with Rodwell and Pienaar, seem likely to miss the game at the Hawthorns. They are joined by a list of six others, including Lee Cattermole, Duncan Watmore, Jan Kirchoff and ‘keeper Jordon Pickford who have more long-term injuries.
Given Sunderland’s recent form, this is a game that Albion will be looking to win, and if they are to secure a record points total this season, this is the type of game they should win. Their record against the bottom half teams has been good this season with the Baggies having won seven of the ten games they have played against teams below 10th, with their only defeat coming at Bournemouth in September. I think Albion will continue that good record and take all three points.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
1 Oct 2016 – Premier League
Sunderland 1 (van Aanholt)
West Brom 1 (Chadli)
Last meeting at the Hawthorns
17 Oct 2015 – Premier League
West Brom 1 (Berahino)
Albion’s Record against Sunderland
|Premier League Record|