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Manchester United vs West Brom – Match Preview

Manchester United are finally making strides up the table. After being stuck in 6th for what seemed like an eternity they have now leapfrogged Arsenal to move into 5th and with two games in hand over Liverpool who sit above them in 4th while only having a 4 point deficit to make up they will fancy their chances of returning to the Champions League once again.

Of course with Jose Mourinho’s side favourite to win the Europa League they may not necessarily need to finish 4th to return to Europe’s top club competition. Mourinho may well feel that winning the Europa League will not only add another trophy to this seasons haul but will present themselves with the perfect backdoor entry to the Champions League. Whether the Europa League does pose an easier route can still be argued.

Last season Liverpool put all their eggs in the Europa League basket only to fall at the very final hurdle as they lost to Sevilla. If Mourinho does decide that this is the better versed path then obviously he will have to make sure they do go all the way and get the job done. The final of competition is not until next month and today the focus moves to league action once again as they play host to West Brom at Old Trafford.

United will go into this game with a slightly depleted side due to a mixture of injury and suspension. Zlatan Ibrahimovic will sit out this game as it is the last of his three match ban while Ander Herrera also is out due to disciplinary reasons. In terms of injury though the list does not make for good reading as Paul Pogba, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones will all be absent this afternoon.

For Smalling and Jones it does not make for good reading with Mourinho only being prepared to say that they are out for ‘a long time’ after both picking up injuries on England duty, that means that they are light in the Centre Back department and have had to call 19 year old Axel Tuanzebe into the squad. The youngster has made just a solitary appearance and could well be in line for another one this afternoon, although a place on the subs bench looks more likely.

In their last outing before the international break they were not affected by Middlesbrough’s ‘new manager bounce’ as they eased to a 3-1 win at The Riverside Stadium. That was the all-important win that saw them finally leapfrog Arsenal into 5th and in some way they will have to thank their opponents Today for assisting them up the table.

That’s because West Brom picked up a 3-1 win of their own at The Hawthorns over Arsenal a fortnight ago. A win that not only caused more misery for Arsene Wenger but also solidified The Baggies current 8th place, a position that you would expect them to keep hold off between now and the end of the season. That’s because they are 7 points behind Everton in 7th and 7 points ahead of Stoke who are in 9th.

West Brom do have injury doubts of their own going into this game as both Nacer Chadli and Salomon Rondon have picked up knocks and will be tested before kick off while Matt Phillips will definitely miss out through injury. You could argue that they would not miss Rondon all that much due to his goal drought but the absence of both Chadli and Philips would be a massive blow to their chances of picking up a win at Old Trafford.

Although both sides will be without key players, United will undoubtedly have the bigger squad depth and will be able to absorb their absentees better, couple that with the fact that they are at Old Trafford and as impressive as West Brom have been this week you cannot see them getting anything out of this one. It’s a home win for me.

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