West Brom-Swansea City Preview
The Christmas season is supposed to be the season of hope. Swansea City will need that to be true if they want to make it through the busy fixture list and avoid spending New Year's Day in the relegation zone.
With their campaign slowly spiraling out of control, the Swans (3-6-8) face a crucial Boxing Day clash with West Bromwich Albion at the Liberty Stadium.
In the midst of a horrible run of form which includes a seven-match winless run (0-2-5) in league play that forced former captain and manager Garry Monk his job, the Welsh club are in desperate need of three points.
Caretaker coach Alan Curtis will have his hands full against a difficult West Brom team, which is unlikely to help the Swans' scoring woes on Saturday. Swansea have just three goals during their winless spell, getting shut out five times.
They've also scored just once in their last four league matches.
Additionally, Swansea City's 15 goals are more than only Stoke City and Aston Villa, who both have 14. The Swans have been blanked a Premier League-high eight times and have relied primarily on two players for goals - Andre Ayew and Bafetimbi Gomis have accounted for 11 of the team's tallies.
"I've told the players that isn't about who they're playing against, it is who they're playing for," Curtis said as Swans chairman Huw Jenkins continues his search for Monk's successor. "I feel that if we can continue the principles that have taken us to this level and allowed us to prosper, the results will hopefully follow.
"In the last two games the players have shown that they can play freely and express themselves. The danger would be if we started to get cut adrift but it is important we start picking up points, and we'll be looking to do that against West Brom. It is another difficult game but we are at home and sooner or later we have to start winning games."
West Bromwich Albion (5-5-7) aim to stop a four-match winless streak in league play following a 2-1 home defeat to Bournemouth. Manager Tony Pulis' defence-first style cracked a bit against the Cherries, allowing Charlie Daniels to net an 87th-minute winner.
Pulis' emphasis on bunkering deep and trying to hit teams on the counterattack comes through in several alarming ways. Namely, the Baggies have attempted a league-low 145 shots this season, eight fewer than any other team in the league.
The club have also have completed a league-low 305 passes per match, their 73 percent completion rate is second-lowest and the Baggies have not won the possession battle in any of their last eight matches.
In fact, West Brom have been held under 40 percent in four of the last six contests.
However, the club have been remarkably stout in their defensive half on their travels, having conceded only seven times, tied for fewest in the league.
"We've got a busy period, so we'll definitely be rotating the squad," Pulis told the assembled media at his pre-match news conference.
He also addressed the on-going transfer rumours involving forward Saido Berahino possibly moving to Tottenham in January. West Brom chairman Jeremy Peace rejected three Spurs offers for Berahino in the summer window, and the London side are expected to come calling again next month.
"If Tottenham come in and do the deal, they do the deal," the manager said. "If they don't then Saido has to come in and recognise and realise get his head down, work hard and start scoring goals and get into our team."
Both sides won their home meeting last season, with the Swans running out 3-0 winners in August at the Liberty Stadium. The Baggies won 2-0 at The Hawthorns in February with Brown Ideye and Berahino scoring in the final half-hour.
This will be the first Boxing Day meeting between the sides.