For the third home match in succession, Tony Pulis comes up against one of his former clubs on Saturday, although his departure from Crystal Palace on the eve of the 2014/15 season was somewhat more acrimonious than his departures from either Stoke or Bournemouth, with a multi-million pound court case to go with it.
That episode is still not over as far as the Welshman is concerned, despite the High Court ruling against him last year, but it will be business as usual this weekend as Pulis seeks to make it three wins out of three against Palace in his time at the Hawthorns. The reverse fixture was the opening game of the season back in August, with the Baggies recording a 1-0 victory thanks to Rondón’s header, only the second time that they have won the first match of a Premier League season. At the Hawthorns just over a year ago, Albion took a 3-0 first half lead before being pegged back to 3-2 in the second half. Albion’s third goalscorer was a certain Saido Berahino, a neat finish from Sessègnon’s pass that proved to be his last goal for the Baggies.
Palace have yet to win at the Hawthorns in the Premier League although they did taste victory in the clubs’ only meeting to date in the FA Cup in 2014 when Dwight Gayle and Marouane Chamakh were on target in a 2-0 victory. One of the more memorable meetings in recent years was back in February 2005 when both clubs were fighting to avoid the drop. Robert Earnshaw looked to have earned the Baggies a vital three points when he put them 2-1 up in injury time, only for Aki Riihilahti to score an equaliser a minute or so later. Albion, of course, had the last laugh when they stayed up on the final day of the season as Palace failed to beat Charlton.
The last time Palace won a league game at the Hawthorns was in 2007 thanks to another injury time goal, this time from Lewis Grabban to give the visitors a 3-2 victory. Clinton Morrison was also on the scoresheet that day, but he will be most remembered by Baggies fans for his promise to score against Albion in the final match of the 2001/2 season and help his Irish international teammates at Wolves secure promotion and we all know how that one worked out!
Last week’s victory over Bournemouth took Albion over the magical 40-point barrier and they head into this match looking to make it eight wins from nine home games and thereby equal last season’s points total. One other important result from last weekend was Manchester United’s victory over Southampton which makes the possibility of seventh spot securing a Europa League place a little more likely – that will be confirmed if one of the top six wins the FA Cup. With Everton facing a tricky trip to White Hart Lane this weekend, a win over Palace could well narrow the gap to the current occupiers of seventh, and next week’s meeting at Goodison Park could be very interesting.
Matt Phillips faces a late fitness test on a hamstring strain that kept him out of last week’s game while Craig Dawson, who left the pitch last Saturday with concussion, should be fit to play. Sam Allardyce has to contend with a longer injury list, with Conor Wickham and Pape Souaré out for a while and major doubts on the availability of Mathieu Flamini, Loïc Rémy, Bakary Sako and Christian Benteke’s younger brother, Jonathan.
Christian, himself, is fit to play and will be looking to add to his 11 goals this season. Albion, of course, were linked with the Belgian striker last summer but were reportedly put off by Liverpool’s £30 million asking price. Palace ended up paying £27m, which could rise to £32m, and it’s debatable as to whether they got value for money.
Last week’s 1-0 win over Middlesbrough was only their second in the Premier League since Sam Allardyce replaced Alan Pardew at Christmas. The Eagles remain in the bottom three, albeit on goal difference, having picked up just 11 points from their last 19 games. Big Sam has not yet had the expected effect and I’m sure he will be worried – Palace will probably need five or six wins from their remaining twelve games to avoid the drop, and with matches against all of the top six to come, this will be one match they will feel they need to get something from.
While Albion were not massively impressive against Bournemouth last weekend and needed a couple of great saves from Foster to secure the points, they got the job done and confidence will remain high. Palace have only picked up six points in their last ten away games, with their only victory in that period coming at Bournemouth in January, and I think Albion’s home form will be too much for them – another home win.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
13 Aug 2016 – Premier League
Crystal Palace 0
West Brom 1 (Rondón)
Last meeting at the Hawthorns
27 Feb 2016 – Premier League
West Brom 3 (Gardner, Dawson, Berahino)
Crystal Palace 2 (Wickham (2))
Albion’s Record against Crystal Palace
|Premier League Record|