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Premier League

  • January 1, 2011
  • • 12:45
  • • The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Referee: C. Foy
  • • Attendance: 25499
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Premier League Preview: West Bromwich Albion - Manchester United

Premier League Preview: West Bromwich Albion - Manchester United

Nani returns while Roberto Di Matteo faces defensive crisis...

Midlands Malaise

In a season full of surprise dropped points, United have come a cropper against second city-trio Aston Villa, Birmingham City - and most frustratingly - West Brom.

The Baggies shock October two-goal comeback in the 2-2 draw owed to a Patrice Evra deflection and abysmal Edwin van der Sar fumble. With the memory of Lee Bowyer's 89th minute leveller on their minds, the United players couldn't be blamed for a slight fear of dread.

Ferguson will hammer into his squad the need to increase their tally of just one away win this campaign. Victory at The Hawthorns will end that run and see them back in control of the Premier League title race.

December Drop

December is a month full of festive cheer, but Di Matteo must be eager to see the back of it as soon as possible.

Three defeats out of four has seen tentative chatter of a push for a Europa League spot transform into the age-old fear of the drop. The trio of losses on the spin reach a damaging crescendo with the 3-1 set back against Blackburn Rovers on Tuesday.

Di Matteo will expect little from a fixture that last saw all three points gained in 1984. An unlikely change of fortunes will be needed for the New Year to banish the memories of the previous month.

TEAM NEWS

West Brom

Manager Roberto Di Matteo is facing a defensive crisis for the meeting of the Premier League title favourites. First choice pair Gabriel Tamas and Gonzalo Jara are suspended, while utility man Paul Scharner is struggling with illness.

Full-back Gianni Zuiverloon has been recalled from his loan spell at Ipswich Town. Playmaker Chris Brunt also returns after he served a one-match ban against Blackburn Rovers.

Possible starting XI: Carson; Shorey, Reid, Ibanez, Cech; Tchoyi, Brunt, Morrison, Mulumbu, Thomas; Odemwingie.

Manchester United

Boss Sir Alex Ferguson should be able to unleash star winger Nani after he recovered from a hip injury. His return will ease the burden created by Ji-Sung Park's presence on Asian Cup duty for South Korea.

Right-back John O'Shea should be passed fit after a calf strain, with Paul Scholes also set to follow him after a groin injury.

Winger Antonio Valencia has targeted a February return following his leg break and Owen Hargreaves remains absent after a hamstring tear.

Possible starting XI: Van der Sar; Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Nani, Carrick, Anderson, Giggs; Berbatov, Rooney.

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Last Five Matches
Odds
Team News
Available Squads
22Scott CarsonGoalkeeper
12Steven ReidDefender
33Paul ScharnerMidfielder
-Pablo IbáñezDefender
-Marek CechDefender
21Youssouf MulumbuMidfielder
17Graham DorransMidfielder
11Chris BruntMidfielder
7James MorrisonMidfielder
-Jerome ThomasDefender
9Peter OdemwingieStriker
13B. MyhillGoalkeeper
20Nicky ShoreyDefender
2Gianni ZuiverloonDefender
5Somen TchoyiMidfielder
10Ishmael MillerStriker
28Marc-Antoine FortuneStriker
-Simon CoxStriker
29Tomasz KuszczakGoalkeeper
2Gary NevilleDefender
5Rio FerdinandDefender
15Nemanja VidicDefender
3Patrice EvraDefender
24Darren FletcherMidfielder
16Michael CarrickMidfielder
8AndersonMidfielder
25Gabriel ObertanStriker
9Dimitar BerbatovStriker
10Wayne RooneyStriker
40Ben AmosGoalkeeper
35Fabio Da SilvaDefender
6Jonny EvansDefender
4Darron Gibson Midfielder
33BebeStriker
10Michael OwenStriker
14Javier 'Chicharito' HernandezStriker
Players to Watch
Scott Carson
Scott Carson
Position: Goalkeeper
Squad Number: 22
Games Goals YC RC
0 0 0 0
With the Baggies' defence falling to bits, captain Scott Carson should be in for a busy afternoon.

The ex-Liverpool goalkeeper hasn't kept a clean sheet since the 1-0 victory against Sunderland on August 21. An unlikely repeat could see United drop points again in the Midlands.
Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney
Position: Striker
Squad Number: 10
Games Goals YC RC
4 2 0 0
As shot after shot hit the St Andrew's crowd rather than the back of Birmingham City's net, Wayne Rooney grew ever more frustrated.

The England international's quest to add to his single Premier League strike appears more desperate by the game. He must hit the goal trail again soon to provide extra firepower to top scorer Dimitar Berbatov and guard against more lost leads.
Prediction
United's number of away victories should double to two on New Year's Day. With the bit between their teeth after the Birmingham stalemate, West Brom's makeshift defence can expect to be cut apart.
Editor's Prediction

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