Hull City-West Brom Preview
Tony Pulis will make his dugout debut for West Bromwich Albion as the Baggies welcome Hull City to the Hawthorns on Saturday.
Pulis watched from the stands as his new club drew 1-1 with West Ham United on New Year's Day, and again had a lofty view of proceedings as Saido Berahino starred in a 7-0 thrashing of fifth-tier Gateshead in the FA Cup last weekend.
However, the new West Brom (4-6-10) boss is not fooled - the Baggies are a club in crisis. They have won just one of their last 10 in league play, losing seven of those and scoring only six goals in the process. The point against West Ham leaves the Baggies out of the relegation zone by just a single point, and all of the bottom seven clubs have picked up more points in their last four matches than Pulis' struggling outfit.
The hope for West Brom fans will be that the new 'gaffer' lives up to his reputation as a Premier League survival specialist. Pulis' impact after arriving at struggling Crystal Palace midway through last season was remarkable.
The former Stoke City boss took over with Palace on just one point after nine games and in his 29 games in charge managed to steer the club to 11th in the table - their highest league placing for more than 20 years - and 12 points clear of the relegation zone by the end of the season. However, Pulis is aware that his past successes will have little bearing on West Brom's chances of avoiding the drop.
"Irrespective of my record, everyone is fighting to stay in the Premier League," Pulis said. "Just because I've walked in, it does not mean the club will stay up. There is a lot of work to be done. ... The Hawthorns rocks when the support is behind the team so we need to get that going again.
"You have to find a way to win games with what you have and work on a system that will suit the players. I hope we can use the transfer window to our advantage and bring a few players in, which we need to. Then we go from there."
West Brom host Steve Bruce's struggling Hull City (4-7-9), who are just a point ahead in the league but have undergone a mini-revival in recent weeks. Victories over Sunderland and Everton over the holidays doubled the Tigers win tally for the season and lifted them out of the relegation zone.
Hull have the best defensive record of the bottom seven clubs, while only QPR having scored more goals, but Bruce's side have lacked fluidity and shape for much of the season,never getting the most of their summer signings due to injury.
"(Mohamed) Diame is still in a knee brace and has another couple of weeks in it," Bruce said. "He's been in the knee brace for the last few weeks now and he's still a long way off from making a full recovery. There is the possibility that he could be out for the rest of the season. We will just have to wait and see and hope that nature takes its cause."
"He and (Robert) Snodgrass have picked up awful injuries which have been by fluke. We have had two more players go down with sickness this week and we simply can't afford to lose any more."
Michael Dawson (hamstring), Andy Robertson (ankle), Liam Rosenior (hamstring) and Gaston Ramirez (groin) will join Diame and Snodgrass on the sidelines, while Nikica Jelavic and James Chester are fitness doubts.
West Brom have concerns over the fitness of Craig Gardner and Jonas Olsson.
It was a 0-0 draw when these clubs met at the KC Stadium in early December. Graham Dorrans missed a penalty and there were just five shots on target in the match.