Premier League preview: West Brom v Sunderland
By Football News
Two teams suffering a dip in form meet as West Bromwich Albion host Sunderland at the Hawthorns on Saturday.
The home side enjoyed a shock 2-0 away win at Liverpool in their last outing but a previous run of six winless games has put a severe dent in Steve Clarke's hopes of qualifying for Europe with his side dropping to ninth in the standings.
Despite the drop in form, West Brom have beaten Liverpool (twice), Chelsea and Everton this season as Clarke has already almost ensured survival for a team that many tipped to be in a relegation battle at the end of the campaign.
Martin O'Neill's side have gone about the campaign with minimal fanfare as they sit 13th in the league, six points clear of the relegation zone.
A 1-0 loss at home to Arsenal extended Sunderland's poor form to only two wins in the past nine games and O'Neill will be concerned for season's end if his side doesn't start picking up points soon.
The last meeting between the two sides, back in November, ended in a stunning 4-2 away win for West Brom with Sunderland shell-shocked as the visitors took a 2-0 lead just before half-time.
On-loan Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku has been in good form for West Brom of late, scoring three goals in three matches to take his tally to 10 for the season, with Shane Long supporting him throughout the campaign with six strikes.
Clarke will still be without full-back Goran Popov, who is serving the second match of his three-game ban for spitting at Tottenham's Kyle Walker, while Hungarian midfielder Zoltan Gera has already been ruled out for the season with a knee injury.
Scoring goals has been a problem for Sunderland during this campaign and that is illustrated by Steven Fletcher's 10 goals accounting for more than a third of their total scored, with only Craig Gardner (four), Adam Johnson (four), Stephane Sessegnon (three) and James McLean (two) having contributed multiple strikes.
O'Neill is likely to be missing Danny Rose (hamstring) after the full-back limped off against Arsenal but will be boosted by the gradual return of skipper Lee Cattermole (knee), who got through 45 minutes against Arsene Wenger's men.
West Brom haven't lost in any of their past six contests with Sunderland - five of them being wins - and will be confident of taking momentum from their victory at Anfield in the last round of fixtures.