October 20, 2012
Clarke tips City to retain title
Team Stat Comparison
|West Bromwich Albion||Manchester City|
|Goals for *||1.7||1.3|
|Goals against *||1.3||1.0|
|Last 5 home||D-L-D-L-W||L-W-W-W-W|
|Last 5 away||L-L-W-L-D||W-D-L-W-L|
|* Goals per match - home matches for home club and away matches for away club|
|Stats: West Bromwich Albion | Manchester City|
West Brom boss Steve Clarke believes Manchester City are favourites to retain their Barclays Premier League title ahead of their clash at The Hawthorns.
The Baggies have won their opening four home league games - their best start since 1919 in the top flight - but that record will be given its sternest test yet by Roberto Mancini's side.
Clarke feels City have a squad strong enough to cover all eventualities - including the absence of the injured David Silva - as they look to repeat last May's dramatic title triumph.
He said: "At this moment in time I'd say Manchester City are still the favourites to win the league. 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.''
Albion have taken 14 points from their opening seven games but Clarke knows the run of games between now and the end of 2012 will decide what direction the season will take.
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.''
West Brom may be without midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu after the Congo international picked up a niggle on international duty this week and is rated as "60-40'' to be fit.
Striker Romelu Lukaku is expected to be available after a minor ankle problem but Steven Reid and Chris Brunt (both hamstring), Billy Jones (knee) and Boaz Myhill (thumb) are ruled out.
Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini believes this weekend's opponents have been playing the best football in the country.
Mancini hopes his players quickly recover from their international exertions of the past fortnight to get ready for what he expects to be a challenging trip to The Hawthorns.
Mancini said: "I should say many compliments to him (Clarke) because he has done a very good job until now.
"In this moment, I think West Bromwich is the team that has played the best football, so for us it will be a tough game.
"It is always difficult, this game after the international break. Today is the first date we can work together.
"We need to think and we need to put everything we have into the game because it will be very difficult. After that we think about the other games.''
City are unbeaten but yet to hit their stride this season, although they suggested better was to come with an emphatic 3-0 defeat of Sunderland in their last game a fortnight ago.
Mancini anticipates an entertaining contest with both sides keen to express themselves.
The Italian said: "It is very important when there are two teams that play very good football, I think it is important for the supporters, for everyone.''
The international break has taken a toll on City with midfielders David Silva and Jack Rodwell suffering hamstring injuries representing Spain and England Under-21s respectively.
The problem for Silva, at least, may not be as bad as feared.
The 26-year-old pulled up after just 10 minutes of Spain's World Cup qualifying draw with France on Tuesday and it was reported he could face a lengthy lay-off.
But although he will also miss Wednesday's crucial Champions League encounter with Ajax, there is a possibility he could be back in action next weekend.
Mancini said: "He is not ready, and will not be for the Champions League, but we hope for the next game against Swansea.''
There might also have been concerns about the condition of England players Joe Hart, Joleon Lescott and James Milner, who returned later than scheduled after their World Cup qualifier in Poland was put back a day.