Manchester City will retain Premier League title, says West Brom boss Clarke

The former Chelsea, West Ham and Liverpool assistant coach knows his side face a tough task this weekend against the champions - who he deems as favourites in the title race

West Brom manager Steve Clarke believes Manchester City possess a strong enough squad to defend their Premier League crown.

The ex-Liverpool assistant manager was given his first job as a manager by the Baggies this season and has guided them to sixth place after seven games with four consecutive home wins - their best start to a league campaign since 1919.

But Clarke admits West Brom will have their work cut out if their unbeaten home record is not to falter against a City side capable of going all the way for the second successive year.

13/8 Manchester City are 13/8 with Bet365 to win the title

"At this moment in time I'd say Manchester City are still the favourites to win the league,” Clarke told reporters. “They haven't shown that they've gone backwards from last year.

"They've shown that they're at the same level and it's up to everyone else to catch up with them.

"You know their squad is really strong and they have a number of options.

"I read in the week that David Silva is injured but they've got Samir Nasri to come in. They've got like-for-like replacements all over the pitch.

"They're a strong squad and if you're going to compete up there at that level, then you need one."

Clarke added that the Baggies’ fixtures between now and the end of the Christmas period may well determine the outcome of their season.

He said: "Every game is a good test in the Premier League. We've worked ever so hard and done really well to build ourselves a good platform. Now we have to try to build on that platform.

"I think between now and the end of the year we've got 13 games and we've got to try to attack those 13 games the way we've attacked the first seven.

"We need to get as many points as we can and then, come January 1, we can sit down and decide what direction our season is going to go in."

In order to ensure the best possible season for his club, Clarke says he is trying to mould a squad big enough to cope with injuries to their most influential players – the likes of Chris Brunt, Steven Reid and Peter Odemwingie.

He continued: "In the Premier League in general you need a strong squad, which is something we've tried to build at Albion this year.

"I think over the first seven games we've shown that our squad is strong enough to be competitive.

"Credit to those we've got who have not been selected and have come into games with maybe half an hour or 20 minutes to go but always made a positive contribution.

"That's really important when you're trying to build a good team and a good squad."

Clarke also expressed his views on Irish striker striker Shane Long, who was given only limited playing time for his country recently by national manager Giovanni Trapattoni.

He added: "I'm surprised he didn't play more minutes for the Republic but it's not my job to pick the team.

"Mr Trapattoni picks the team he wants and, in a way, it's good for us that Shane didn't play because he comes back here and is still reasonably fresh.

"I've never seen Shane disgruntled. He's got a great personality and he just takes it on the chin. I think he's just happy to go and be there for his country if they need him.

"He's a proud, patriotic Irishman and he's happy to go. If he's called upon, he's ready to play for them."