West Bromwich Albion welcome Norwich City to the Hawthorns this afternoon on the back of a 4-2 win over Cardiff in the FA Cup, but with just one point from their last three Premier League outings (though it was against Manchester City). Norwich too despatched Championship opposition in the cup – recording a comfortable 4-1 win over Burnley at Carrow Road. Many are expecting them to start slipping any time now – ‘doing a Blackpool’ seems to be the official expression for any team that dares to still be punching above their weight at Christmas nowadays, and we all know what happened there. Canaries fans will know though that their side have yet to experience any real torrid times under maestro Paul Lambert.
So how will the game go this afternoon? Well, the Baggies got the better of the Canaries last time out – seeing out a 1-0 win courtesy of a Peter Odemwingie goal. It will most likely be a close call again. Though Lambert’s side have still yet to keep a clean sheet, they are also the top scorers outside of the top five. Albion haven’t scored in their last 3 games and their defence is hardly airtight – though unlike their opponents they can occasionally keep a clean sheet – as they showed by shutting out Roberto Mancini’s Sky Blues.
Roy Hodgson doesn’t exactly come off as the angry sort – usually seeming more likely to produce a pack of Werther’s Originals than to go off on a Neil Warnock-esque tirade. However, even his patience must be wearing thin with the amount of injuries his relatively small squad has recently sustained. The Canaries have James Vaughan injured (where else would he be?) as well as a couple of other niggles, but otherwise have a pretty fit squad. They have however, lost all four of their last four games against West Brom.
West Bromwich Albion: A number of maybes –c entre-backs Gareth McAuley and Jonas Olsson (both have calf injuries), winger Jerome Thomas (groin), midfielders Paul Scharner (Achilles) and Youssouf Mulumbu (groin) and striker Shane Long (back).
Skipper Chris Brunt, Zoltan Gera and defender Steven Reid are definitely ruled out.
Norwich City: Elliot Ward, James Vaughan and Ritchie de Lait are out; barring any last minute incidents Lambert should have his pick of players.
Referee: Mike Dean
My Prediction: Probably a draw, the Canaries struggle at the Hawthorns but the Baggies aren’t on great form and are ravaged by injury. Considering the visitors’ defensive record, it’d be foolish to predict a 0-0, so I’ll go 1-1.
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