There is no place for sentiment in the Premier League and for reasons that I won`t bore you with now, West Brom at home is one of those fixtures which always brings a smile to my face.
So sentiment aside, debagging them and giving them a proper spanking and making a bad situation worse for them, is a must.
I want a grin as wide as Sandwell Valley Country Park come Saturday night as I host a post-match dinner and entertain (torture) a couple of West Brom loving acquaintances; nothing less will do.
This match has to be the kick off to what must be for us a long unbeaten run, where sharpness and focus returns and we keep on track for a Top four finish.
For the Spurs players the great win against Dortmund should now be a pleasant memory, as should the whole of the Champions league; the incredible group task was set, we have measured up and come through with flying Lillywhite colours.
Last season this same home fixture ended up a magnificent 4-0 win, with one of our best performances of the season. Harry bagged three and should have had five or more, he and we, were rampant.
It was also the match where we equaled the clubs then record of six straight Premier League wins – and this time whilst they were the sixth in that run, we must make this game the start of an even better run if hopes of being in the final fight come the business end of the season are to be realised.
Former manager Pullis made them a tough team to beat at the Hawthorns but he never could quite make it happen for them away from home. They have been on an awful run, not winning since the second week of the season when they beat Burnley at Turf Moor. After that, their record has been a poor return of four points from a possible 30 with four draws and six defeats. Despite this miserable run, most of the Baggies fans are in jubilant mood believing that his brand of football has finally been banished from the Hawthorns after what for some seemed an eternity.
The new Chinese owners couldn`t have got off to a worse start and so Pullis has been sacked, is £2 mill richer for being unemployed, and looking for the next club he can ‘save` from entertaining football.
The bad news is that teams that lose their managers always have this uncanny knack of trying to prove that it wasn`t their fault the manager was sacked and often un-expectantly play above their recent form, managing to confound all the pundits and critics.
It wouldn`t shock me to see them do just that; leave their recent form behind and look to their past record to inspire them for this one.
West Brom`s record against us is pretty decent and the new man will no doubt remind them of that before they cross the line.
I expect that their realistic ambition for this game will be a draw.
In our last 5 meetings: they`ve held us to a draw 3 times. Overall in the Premier League we have beaten them 9 times, had an unhealthy 10 draws and we have lost to them 3 times.
Given that their temporary man in charge, Pullis`s one time assistant and now caretaker manager Gary Megson, is from the same footballing tactical stable as Pullis, my view is that they will once again try and play with 10 or 11 men in their own half for much of the game, only making a cavalry charge over the half-way line to chase long balls over the top and coming forward in mass for what I expect to be rare set-pieces. Sanchez will have to try and keep himself awake and alert for the hail mary’s being chucked up to whatever ‘striker’ they can call one for this game.
It will be up to us to once again unlock them, the longer the game goes on without us scoring will only make them fight harder.
Last season we came out racing from the off, looking to get an early goal, which Harry did in the 12th minute, do that, and we can all look forward to a re-run of last year`s comprehensive debagging.
The big question for us is who plays, who rests and what will we do differently, if anything?
With no more injured than we already had before our Champions league exertions it will simply be a question of who starts, who gets rested and what tactical changes will Poch spring?
The first the big question is will Poch go with Aurier and Tantrum Rose again or revert back to Tripper and Davies?
I expect the defence will line up like this; Lloris, Tripper, Dier on the right of a three again, Sanchez in the middle and Vert left, with Davies out wide; Tantrum Rose will be rested (from fuming) – clapping halfheartedly from the bench.
Midfield maybe a bit trickier, but given that West Brom are very aggressive in midfield, I expect Winks to start but be protected and flanked by Sissoko.
Starting Dembele would be a bit of a risk as he`s looked so out of sorts recently plus its clear to me that we are really having to manage his playing time now. Poch might be tempted to play him back into form, and build his confidence in his own physicality and touch again, and this could be a game that he could do just that.
Sissoko will do a job as a willing worker, I expect him to put in another game of hard-graft and be the midfield water carrier even if the guile, skill and touch may not quite be what any unbridled optimist still expects or fantasies he still has hidden within in him.
If Dembele plays instead, I would expect him to be concentrating on the more reserved anchor/holding screening role allowing Winks to be more positive going forward and being the midfield playmaker with his fine through balls and crisp passing.
I am reliably informed that both Tashan Oakley-Boothe and even Lamela are in consideration and likely to be on the bench., and it would not surprise me to see Poch pull a surprise with both of them, but the final decision will not be made until the last minute after Friday`s training session.
If Lamela does make it to the bench and we have a decent lead, I`d lay money on him making the last 10-15 minutes.
The front three might be in for a change, Eriksen has put in some hard miles in big games recently and if I were Poch I would be looking to encourage an on-song Song and give him a starting place alongside first name on the teamsheet, Harry, who maybe is not as sharp this time around as he was this game last season.
So whilst Erksen has missed very few games, this is one where I would really be thinking I can afford the risk and leave him on the bench, he looked below par after his International heroics in both the last two games and a short rest looks to me like it would do him a World of good.
With Harry hitting the target again against Dortmund after six games without scoring, this match will have his juices flowing again; in the expectation that his sharpness is improving after carrying a tear for a few games, if he gets another early goal, it would not surprise me to see him bag three.
Alli will have to work hard on his possession and moving the ball quicker, he`s had a habit lately of being slow with the latter and giving the ball away cheaply, playing him into top form after his assists would be a priority for me.
West Brom will once again target Alli, much like they did at their place last season when he was kicked, knocked and pressured for much of the game.
He barely held his temper then, he`ll need to do the same again here. I`d like to see him playing with a bit more freedom here and doing what he does best, creating and scoring.
My prediction for the game is another 4-0 win. Two from Harry, Two from Song.
p.s. we will be playing the predictor game for this one again, prize to be announced tomorrow. For those of you going to the game Saturday (I am forced to give this one a miss) I hope it is a great game – for those of you who cannnot, make sure you are making your thoughts known on this thread; we are close to deciding the short list for the posters of the month and what you type here on and after the game might be the decider ! 🙂