It is that time again. Yes, you guessed it – time for the least enjoyable 90 minutes of your week. This time it will come against Manchester United, who recently beat Southampton 9-0 — doesn’t get much harder than that, does it?
Albion, meanwhile, come off the back of yet another defeat, this time against Spurs at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
The performance was not as bad as we have previously seen this season; Mbaye Diagne had the ball in the net twice, only to be ruled offside. Ultimately, though, the story remained the same: Albion caught in transition and completely outplayed by better quality opposition.
Last time United and Albion met, the latter were not helped by some shocking VAR decisions, which resulted in a Conor Gallagher penalty being overturned, followed by a Bruno Fernandes retake, so if we stand any chance of getting a result, the officials need to be on top of their game.
West Bromwich Albion
According to The Athletic, Albion have the fittest squad in the league — that is, the least amount of injuries. Grady Diangana remains the only doubt, though there is still a chance he may feature.
This does not make it any easier for Allardcye, as he moves from system to system to find a solution to Albion’s dire problems. Matheus Pereira took the hit last week, which simply cannot happen again if he wants anything from this game.
Big Sam may opt for a more central system, forcing United wide and allowing us to move the ball quickly through the middle of the park on the counter-attack. Really, what have we got to lose?
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a bit more of an injury crisis, with a few senior players unavailable.
David de Gea and Luke Shaw will also expect to be recalled to the starting lineup, while Marcus Rashford, who has six goals and five assists away from home this season, should keep his place.
Eric Bailly could be back in contention after missing out on the midweek FA Cup match, and Solskjaer must decide whether to stick with Victor Lindelof to partner Harry Maguire at the heart of the defence.
Paul Pogba remains out for the visitors though, while Phil Jones remains a long-term absentee.
The Game Plan
As Sam said, we need results and we need them fast. Playing free-flowing, attacking football hasn’t and won’t work, but neither has shutting up shop. Albion need to get the balance right – defend high and strong, press when necessary, hit them on the break and for God’s sake, don’t get caught in transition.
But this is where United thrive themselves – hitting teams on the break when they’re in transition. Teams have struggled to cope with the pace of Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood this season, the vision of Bruno Fernandes and the movement of Edinson Cavani.
Stifling these four players will be crucial to whatever result Albion can squeeze out of the way.
Another player Albion will have to be wary of is Scott McTominay. Historically, he has been set up as a CDM, shielding the back the four. More recently, though, he’s transitioned into more of a box-to-box and has become a goal threat as a result.
He scored a cracker against Southampton and the only goal against West Ham to send them through to the FA cup quarter final.
So, lads, mark Rashford, Cavani, Greenwood, McTominay, Anthony Martial and you might be fine — sound easy? Good.
United are flying high and have some sensational attacking talent. Maybe their defence is a weakness, but our attack is hardly a strength.
Score prediction: West Brom 1-3 Manchester United