Manchester United will want to lay down the demon of Athletic Bilbao’s win at Old Trafford in Thursday’s Europa League tie by getting down to business and defeating Roy Hodgson’s West Brom in the Premier League.
West Brom are on a good run winning their last 3 league games, a feat that the Baggies haven’t achieved in almost 12 years, emerging from a poor start to the season to look odds-on to finish inside the top-half of the table.
In their last league outing, a victory over Chelsea, West Brom thoroughly deserved to beat the Blues and it was perhaps unfair that all the talk afterwards was about another defeat for Andre-Villas Boas rather than the performance from the Baggies.
West Brom are a tough team to beat and gone are the days when they will roll-over to the big teams in the Premier League. James Morrison has even spoken about the team pushing for a Europa League spot in the next year or so.
Whilst that may be a tad ambitious from the midfielder who scored a stunning goal against United last January at the Hawthorns, the facts are that if West Brom continue to improve under Hodgson there’s no reason why they shouldn’t aim higher.
So what can we expect from tomorrow’s game. What will be the key battles on the pitch?
Rio Ferdinand v Peter Odemwingie
Earlier in the season there were rumours that Odemwingie was angling for a move out of the Midlands. Unsurprisingly these rumours started when the Nigerian forward was in a bad patch and outside of Hodgson’s starting line-up.
Odemwingie though has turned it around and after scoring a hat-trick away to Wolves looks to be back to his best. Two goals followed in a rout over Sunderland and Ferdinand will have to be at his best to keep the rejuvenated hit-man quiet.
Paul Scholes v Youssuf Mulumbu
Arguably Mulumbu was West Brom’s best player last season and it wasn’t a surprise that the Baggies supporters voted him their player of the year, as a result of his outstanding form in midfield which thankfully didn’t go unnoticed.
The Congolese midfielder looks at home in the top-flight but he will be up against a big challenge in trying to frustrate United who will see a lot of the ball in midfield and it’s vital he doesn’t let Scholes to settle and weave his magic.
Wayne Rooney v Jonas Olsson
Rooney might well have scored 24 goals in all competitions this season, but has it been a vintage season for the England striker? Has he really played to his best? The answer to those questions is probably – and honestly – no he hasn’t!
Then again any critics of Rooney will know that anytime he is criticised, he bounces back and he will no doubt have chances to score against West Brom. It will be up to Olsson, West Brom’s captain to stop him from enjoying a happy afternoon.
In terms of a prediction for the game, as stated earlier on in a on in a predictions article, I can see United winning 3-0, with Javier Hernandez scoring twice which will be a win that will keep the pressure on the league leaders Manchester City.
A repeat of the 2-2 draw that the two sides shared at Old Trafford in September 2010 would be a result that would be simply not good enough although it would represent another good result for West Brom in pursuit of a top-half finish.
By Adam Dennehey @ADennehey87