WBA v Fulham preview

Thursday 29 August 2002

Jean Tigana could hardly be happier after guiding the Cottagers to UEFA Cup via success in the Intertoto Cup.

During the week while the Baggies were getting a lesson from Arsenal, Fulham were beating Bologna 3-1, with a hat-trick from Japanese star Junichi Inamoto.

After an impressive opening day win over Bolton and the dramatic last-minute comeback to rescue a point at Middlesbrough, Fulham's European progress will further boost confidence before their trip to West Brom.

Last year Jean Tigana's side failed to score four goals in a single league game - a feat that they duly managed on day one of the current campaign against Bolton. Two goals in the final minute rescued a point from the Riverside a week later and thus Fulham remain unbeaten.

As a group the Cottagers have unleashed a healthy average of 13.5 shots per game, but more accuracy could have seen them improve their goal tally further still. Just 41% of the team's effort have hit the target and that's a rate that needs to improve if they are to avoid the problems that persisted last term. However, optimism reigns supreme so far for the visitors, while the hosts wait patiently to experience the highs that the big time can offer.

After three of the hardest possible games to welcome them to the Barclaycard Premiership, Gary Megson knows that his West Brom side need points from this match.

Without anything to show for their first three games, the Baggies can console themselves with the fact that not many teams take points from Man Utd, Leeds and Arsenal, but that will be cold comfort if they are cut adrift at the bottom of the league and facing a quick return to the Nationwide.

Playing at home against a Fulham side which have only been in the top flight a year longer than themselves, West Brom have no excuses this time, and another defeat would be a disaster.



Gary Megson knows that, but he also knows that there are no easy games in the Barclaycard Premiership and Fulham are far from being pushovers.

He joked after the Arsenal game that: "Someone said our season doesn't start until we play Fulham. They've only spent £70 million!". Behind the jokes, he knows that he needs to turn things around, quickly.

The Baggies have completed just 54% of their passes in the final third of the pitch - seven percentage points below the Premiership average - and consequently the team has been forced to make more than a century of clearances.

To make matters worse ahead of Saturday, Fulham appear to be rejuvenated in front of goal.

Confidence is something the Baggies do not have after running the gauntlet at Old Trafford and Highbury, so they could have done with playing an out-of-form team in their first "real" game of the season.

Jason Koumas is still to agree personal terms with his new Club and former Baggies hero Lee Hughes is set to make his second Hawthorns debut.

Jean Tigana has no new injury worries ahead of the match.

BETTING ODDS

In the last 5 years Fulham have played 6 times against The Baggies at The Hawthorns and won 4, drew 1 and lost 1. The only way West Brom can get a point is if Fulham give them one or they all line up on their goal line and stay there.

In their three opening games against , Arsenal, Leeds and Man U, their famed First Division defence had 9 bells kicked out of it as they shipped a total of 9 goals scoring 3 goals in reply. Fulham may not be Real Madrid or Barcelona but at the moment they are scoring goals for fun. If you feel lucky take the 11/8 available at a number of Bookies.

MAN IN THE MIDDLE: Rob Styles, Waterlooville

38-year-old Rob Styles is now in his third season in the Barclaycard Premiership, having developed a reputation as a disciplinarian. Styles dished out an average of 3.8 yellow cards per game last season, but only issued one red in his 18 matches in charge.

Styles, a company director, started refereeing in 1987 and became a football league assistant in 1994. The Premier League came calling in 2000 and Styles became an international FIFA approved official in 2002. His Biggest match to date came in 2000 when he refereed the Division Two play-off final.

Mr Styles was our Ref for the away game at Leeds last season, which we won 1-0. He booked Goma and Legwinski for fouls and Van der Sar for dissent. The last time he reffed a Baggies game was back in 1999.

Overall last year he whistled less than average but liked to give out more yellows than most other Premiership referees...

Source: Opta / Planet Football

FROM THE BBC

West Bromwich Albion, who've lost all three of their Premiership outings thus far, entertain Fulham, who have played ten League and Cup matches already and remain unbeaten.

The promoted Baggies could hardly have had a tougher introduction to the Premier League with trips to Manchester United (lost 1-0) and Arsenal (lost 5-2) interspersed by last Saturday's home game with Leeds (lost 1-3).

The Cottagers have recorded a 4-1 home win over Bolton, and 2-2 draw at Middlesbrough courtesy of stoppage time goals from Davis and Sava. They have also capped a fine run in the Intertoto Cup with a 3-1 victory over Bologna in the second leg of the final at Loftus Road on Tuesday. Junichi Inamoto completed a magnificent hat trick to land his club a first ever Uefa Cup berth.

Albion are seeking their first victory over the Londoners in seven League and Cup attempts over nine years.

A draw for Fulham would mean they had picked up exactly 150 League points under Jean Tigana, while a win would take the clubs Premiership points under Tigana past the 50 mark. They are on 48 at present.

These clubs last met in the Quarter-finals of the FA Cup at the Hawthorns in March. Steve Marlet headed a Steed Malbranque free kick into the Albion net to land Fulham a place in the semi-finals for the first time in 27 years.

HEAD TO HEAD NOTES

Fulham have become West Brom's bogey team in recent meetings. The Baggies have not won in six League and Cup meetings.

Albion's only League win over the Cottagers in 26 years was 4-0 at the Hawthorns in the Second Division on 13 February, 1993.

The Londoners are chasing a fifth win in seven League and Cup visits to the West Midlands club.

West Brom won the last top flight meeting with Fulham. It was 2-1 at the Hawthorns on 24 February, 1968.