Premier League Preview: West Brom v Cardiff City
By Football News
Points are all that matter for Cardiff City and West Brom when they meet in a potentially crucial game in the Premier League survival fight.
Cardiff head to The Hawthorns deep in the mire after just one win from their last seven league games.
They sit 19th, three points adrift of safety, and with an inferior goal difference to everyone above them as the spectre of an immediate return to the Championship looms large.
Even victory on Saturday is unlikely to be enough to see them climb out of the bottom three, but a second away league win of the campaign would still represent a huge boost, while simultaneously dragging West Brom right into the thick of the fight.
It is little wonder that boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is billing the game as must-win.
After the Welsh club twice surrendered a lead to lose 6-3 to title-chasing Liverpool last weekend, the Norwegian conceded: "We can't carry on like this. We need points next week. That's for definite."
With Pepe Mel's side one of those perilously placed above the drop zone, three points clear in 16th, the stakes are high this weekend.
Mel's arrival in the dugout in January has failed to turnaround West Brom's slump in fortunes.
A 2-1 success at fellow strugglers Swansea City a fortnight ago was the Spaniard's first victory in charge, at the ninth attempt, and that poor run has dragged them towards the bottom three.
With games against fellow relegation candidates Norwich City and Sunderland still to come following the Cardiff test, their fate rests very much in their own hands.
But Youssouf Mulumbu insists that the club's fans can also play their part.
"We need to show Cardiff this is going to be a long afternoon and we're there to win," the midfielder told the club's official website.
"I hope our fans can make The Hawthorns a scary place for Cardiff to play on Saturday.
"We want to do everything to stay in the Premier League and that's for the fans because they don't deserve to go to the Championship.
"This is one of the most important games for West Brom because this can make life really difficult for Cardiff and boost us."
Gareth McAuley, Diego Lugano and Morgan Amalfitano are all battling to be included on Saturday.
McAuley was withdrawn with an ankle injury in the 2-0 loss at Hull City last Saturday while Lugano and Amalfitano are back in training after knee problems.
Victor Anichebe came off at the KC Stadium with an apparent hamstring complaint and appears less likely to recover in time.
Jonas Olsson (suspension) and Chris Brunt (knee) will definitely miss out.
Cardiff, meanwhile, have at least been spared some of the injury problems that have afflicted their rivals, with defender Mark Hudson (hamstring) and Matt Connolly (ankle) their only long-term casualties.
Craig Noone failed a fitness test before the Liverpool match but has trained all week and should be available.