Preview: West Brom v Manchester United

Manchester United will be hoping to make it three wins on the trot at the Hawthorns on Saturday evening when they take on a West Brom side one place below them in the EPL standings.

Premier League
Matchday 17
17 December 2016
Kick-off 17:30 (GMT)
Venue: The Hawthorns

Referee: A. Taylor
Assistants: S. Child, I. Hussin
Fourth official: P. Tierney

Head-to-head summary:

TEAM MATCHES WIN DRAW LOSS
West Brom 109 35 25 49
Man United 109 49 25 35

Previous encounter:

West Brom 1-0 Manchester United – 06/03/16 (Premier League)

West Brom goalscorer: Rondon (66′)

Players to watch:

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has brushed aside a lean spell in fine style with eight goals in his eight last matches in all competitions and is the only United player finding the net regularly at the moment. His ability to link play around the box and his increasing understanding with Paul Pogba has made the Swede an irreplaceable component of Jose Mourinho’s line-up.

Salomon Rondon completed a 13-minute hat-trick in West Brom’s 3-1 midweek win over Swansea, and is his club’s leading scorer with seven league goals this season. The Venezuelan also struck the winner the last time the two sides met back in May.

Team form and manager quotes:

After a series of frustrating draws – six in eight Premier League games, the Red Devils have finally found some winning momentum with two wins in a row, which has taken them to sixth position, six points outside of the top four.

The next three games before Christmas (next up are Sunderland and Middlesbrough, both at home) could be crucial as Mourinho looks to ensure his side stay in the Champions League race.

“Half-way through the race is not until 31 December, but I would say for the first half of the race it would be almost impossible to be in the top four.

“But, one thing is to be 15 points from the top four, another is to be five points from the top four.

“What we have to try to do in these three remaining matches is be in a position that gives us a chance in the second part of the season. We are playing really well; if we can transform performances into results, we have a chance,” said the United boss.

The Midlands team, meanwhile, are on an even better run of form, having won four of their last six league fixtures. Their only defeat during that time was a 1-0 loss at Chelsea. Their last three home matches have all produced maximum points.

Manager Tony Pulis is enjoying the solid start to the season which sees his side occupy seventh place, four points behind Saturday’s opponents, but has cautioned his side to not get ahead of themselves.

“It’s brilliant, we are delighted where we are, but nobody will get carried away. It’s been great to sign a new contract with the owners, there is a little bit of stability here, before I came in the longest serving manager had been Tony Mowbray and nobody else has got to two years.

“They’ve got threats from everywhere, whichever team he picks,” he said of Saturday’s showdown.

“We’re at home, a full house and we’re really looking forward to the challenge.

“Of course we’ve got momentum and we’re scoring goals so we’re looking forward to it. Beating Swansea was a statement after playing 24 hours after them in the run-up. That game was so important for us as a football club.”

Team news:

For West Brom, right-back Craig Dawson could return to the side after his suspension, while striker Saido Berahino has a chance of getting some action after recovering from injury and playing for the Baggies’ Under-23s in midweek.

Former United centre-back Jonny Evans faces a race against time to recover from the calf injury which kept him out of the Swansea match. Goalkepeer Boaz Myhill is their only confirmed injury absentee.

Manchester United right-back Antonio Valencia is available again after his suspension. Chris Smalling is fit and could play, but fellow defender Eric Bailly won’t feature after hurting his knee against Crystal Palace, although he is expected back soon.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Luke Shaw remain sidelined with injury.

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