Albion return to action after the international break with a trip to the King Power Stadium to take on Leicester City on Monday evening. The Baggies will be looking for their first win since August having picked up just three points from their last five games.
The Foxes’ record is even worse, however. The have just one Premier League win this season, which also came in August, and they have managed just two points from their last five. It must be said that City’s fixture list has not been as kind as Albion’s, with having already faced Chelsea and Liverpool at home and Manchester United and Arsenal away, all of which they lost. Their only win came at home to Brighton while they have picked up points at Bournemouth and Huddersfield.
There were signs of improvement in the Baggies performance against Watford last time out, and while a draw was a fair result on the day, it was galling to drop two points so late in the game. The Hornets are turning into injury time goal specialists having made it three games on the trot in yesterday’s victory over Arsenal.
Albion remain in the top ten after yesterday’s results, but victory can only take them one place higher as a three point gap has opened up between eighth and ninth. A win is long overdue for the Baggies, and the longer this run goes on, the more likely that Albion will spend the season looking down rather than up.
Leicester’s need for points is perhaps greater that Albion’s as they currently sit in the bottom three, and with a trip to Swansea and a visit from Everton to follow this match, Shakey will see this as the first of three eminently winnable fixtures.
Salomón Rondón got off the mark for the season against Watford and, after returning from an unbeaten international break with Venezuela, he will be keen to keep a positive run of games going, and with Hal Robson-Kanu a doubt for the game, he is almost certain to start. Pulis rarely opts to start with Rondón after an international break, but the fact that the game is on Monday will have given him a better opportunity to recover from the long trip to South America, and the Welshman should have no issues with putting him the eleven.
One player who will be buzzing after the last week or so is James McClean. Having scored the goal that sent the Republic of Ireland into the play-offs for next summer’s World Cup, Pulis should look to take advantage of McClean’s positive mood and start him on Monday. While he can sometimes go a little too far, his pace and energy are a great asset to the side when he is playing well.
Fellow winger, Matt Phillips, also played 180 minutes for his country but Scotland missed out on a place in the play offs following a 2-2 draw in Slovakia. He may not have had a fantastic start to the season, but the former QPR man can take encouragement from the fact that he scored the winner at the King Power stadium last season.
Grzegorz Krychowiak’s summer move to the Hawthorns has helped him to regain his place in the Poland squad and he too played both his country’s games as they confirmed top spot in Group E and a place in Russia with a 6-1 win in Armenia and a 4-2 home victory over Montenegro. His performances have steadily improved over the season, but having joined at the end of August, he is yet to taste victory in an Albion shirt. Hopefully he can transfer some of Poland’s excellent form into the Baggies team!
The Northen Irish trio of McAuley, Evans and Brunt all appeared for the Green and White Army as they secured a play off spot while Oliver Burke had a mixed time with the Scotland U21s. He was brought off at half time against England despite being named captain, but then scored in the 2-0 win over Latvia a few days later.
Meanwhile, Ahmed Hegazi played 90 minutes for Egypt as Mo Salah’s goal secured their place in Russia, their first appearance in a World Cup finals since they were in England’s group in 1990. Jake Livermore, on the other hand, didn’t get any time on the field in England’s 1-0 wins over Slovenia and Lithuania.
Jay Rodriguez won his only England cap to date against Chile four years ago, and he will have hoped that a return to regular football would see him challenging for a call up. Unfortunately, despite a promising start to his Albion career, the former Southampton striker has yet to sparkle in the navy and white and has only scored one Premier League goal. He is one of only four players to have started every Premier League game this season, but stats website whoscored.com rate him as only the eleventh best Albion player this season. One stat where he leads the way, however, is on shots per game. He is the only player to have averaged more than two shots per game although only six of the fifteen he has attempted have been on target.
With Brunt, Phillips and McClean all pushing for a place in support of Rondón, Rodriguez’s place could be under threat. It would be a surprise if Pulis didn’t start both Barry and Krychowiak so it will depend on the approach at the back as to how may slots are up for grabs in midfield. He has switched between three and four at the back this season, and now has another option with Gareth McAuley having returned to fitness.
Ordinarily, he would be happy with a point from any away match, but with Albion having failed to beat Stoke, West Ham and Watford at home, and Leicester struggling near the foot of the table, he should perhaps be targeting all three points. However, the Foxes strength on the break, particularly with Vardy fit having missed both England games, means that Pulis is unlikely to push too many forward at any point.
The Premier League history of this fixture is somewhat unusual in that there has yet to be a home victory. Leicester have won all three Premier League encounters at the Hawthorns, while Albion have won two and drawn one of their visits to the King Power. In fact, Albion are unbeaten at Leicester’s new stadium with the foxes last home win over the Baggies coming back in January 1994 when Iwan Roberts scored twice for the hosts in a 4-2 reverse at Filbert Street. Since then, Albion have won six of their eight visits to Leicester, the last seven at the Walkers/King Power.
Albion’s biggest win at Leicester was back in 1977 when Mick Martin (2), Tony Brown, David Cross and Laurie Cunningham were on the scoresheet in a 5-0 win at Filbert Street. At the King Power, the biggest win came in the fourth round of the League Cup in 2010 when Simon Cox (2), Somen Tchoyi and Steven Reid all scored in a 4-1 win.
I think both clubs will see their winless run extended with the match finishing all square.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
29 Apr 2017 – Premier League
West Brom 0
Leicester City 1 (Vardy)
Last meeting at Leicester City
6 Nov 2016 – Premier League
Leicester City 1 (Slimani)
West Brom 2 (Morrison, Phillips)
Albion’s Record against Leicester City
|Premier League Record|