Recovering from opening day blues...
Following their opening day drubbing at the hands of Chelsea, West Bromwich Albion have shown great strength of character to respond in a positive manner.
The 6-0 result at Stamford Bridge was followed by a 1-0 victory over Sunderland at the Hawthorns, and getting past Leyton Orient in the League Cup would only have served to boost the players’ confidence levels.
On paper, their last game prior to the international break was one that was going to be a very difficult one, and a strong performance away at Liverpool only served to justify their push for survival this season.
The Baggies’ defending was organised and resolute and they even showed some attacking intent - in spurts – during the encounter. That it took a special effort from Fernando Torres for the Reds to record a victory tells the story.
Champions League vs Premier League
The euphoric atmosphere around White Hart Lane following the victory over Young Boys – that saw Spurs qualify for the Champions League group stage – was in sharp contrast to the disappointment of losing to Wigan Athletic at home a few days later.
The defeat would have been all the more hard to swallow as the Latics had conceded 10 goals in two league games before the victory. It was also the very same fixture that saw Spurs winning 9-1 last season.
And as renewed optimism is seen with regard to England following the disastrous World Cup, manager Harry Redknapp will likely have felt that lady luck deserted him at the wrong time – as Jermain Defoe and Michael Dawson were both injured on international duty.
However, the good news for the gaffer came in the form of midfielder Luka Modric having returned to fitness to complete 90 minutes for Croatia, while defender William Gallas played in a friendly to boost his chances of making his first Premier League appearance for his new employers.
The result of this game could prove to be very significant later on in the campaign, as Spurs have a very rigorous list of fixtures that could see them dropping points if they are unable to cope with the schedule.
Following the game at the Hawthorns on Saturday, a midweek trip to Werder Bremen is in the offing. This will be swiftly followed by the arrival of Wolverhampton Wanderers at White Hart Lane, before another midweek fixture comes along in the form of a heated north London derby against Arsenal in the League Cup. But before Spurs have any time to breathe, fixtures against West Ham Unites, Twente and Aston Villa remain in the pipeline before the players can get a week’s rest.
West Bromwich Albion
New signing Paul Scharner played in a recent friendly against Bolton Wanderers to prove his fitness and stake a claim for a start, while another new signing, Somen Tchoyi, is also set to compete to get the nod from manager Roberto Di Matteo.
Graham Dorrans recently withdrew from the Scotland squad due to personal reasons, and is a doubt for the upcoming game.
In the meantime, James Morrison begins to serve his three-match suspension following his red card at Liverpool prior to the international break.
Gabriel Tamas, Roman Bednar and Peter Odemwingie have all returned from international duty and have no fitness related problems that could prove to be a concern with respect to the game on Saturday.
Possible starting XI: Carson; Jara, Olsson, Tamas, Shorey; Mulumbu, Dorrans, Brunt, Tchoyi; Odemwingie, Fortune
Michael Dawson (knee) and Jermain Defoe (ankle) were both injured while on international duty with England, but Spurs get a midfield boost as Croatia international Luka Modric has returned to fitness having played the entire game against Greece.
Defoe’s injury could see Robbie Keane get a chance to make his first Premier League start of the season, while William Gallas – who recently played in a friendly – could come in for the injured Dawson to partner Ledley King in the heart of Spurs’ defence. New signing Rafael van der Vaart could also make his debut this weekend.
Possible starting XI: Cudicini; Corluka, King, Gallas, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Huddlestone, Modric, Bale; Keane, Crouch