Cardiff City-West Brom Preview

TOM BENNETT (STATS European Football Writer)
The Associated Press

West Bromwich Albion host Cardiff City at the Hawthorns on Saturday in a massive clash in the fight to avoid relegation from the Premier League.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Cardiff City (6-7-18) have picked up just four points from their last seven league games and find themselves one point off the foot of the table with seven matches remaining. With all three teams directly above the Bluebirds having games in hand, the Cardiff manager is fully aware a morale-boosting victory against a relegation rival is key - particularly after last week's 6-3 hammering at the hands of Liverpool.

"Liverpool was a bonus game, no-one except ourselves believed we could get anything out of it," said Solskjaer. "But the game against West Brom is not negotiable. It is vital, you can't lose that one. The teams around us are not winning either. I don't know if it is going to require four more wins. I actually think it might be less.

"We've got seven games to get four more points than the two teams in front of us and we are definitely running out of time. But we've had momentum in performances, effort and attitude. We need points, so why not start at West Brom?"

The Baggies (5-13-12) have struggled for consistency under Pepe Mel, but have picked up points in three of their last five in the league to move just outside the bottom three. A win over Cardiff on Saturday would vault West Brom above 30 points with seven games remaining in the scramble to safety.

"For us there is only one game. Cardiff is the 'final'," said Mel in his pre-match press conference. "The only thing that will do for us is a victory.

"We've been conceding too many early goals. We need that extra effort against Cardiff. Relegation is not a situation that comes into my head. I am far more optimistic."

West Brom have injury doubts over Gareth McAuley (ankle), Victor Anichebe (hamstring), Morgan Amalfitano (knee), Diego Lugano (knee) and Billy Jones (hamstring), while Christ Brunt remains out with a knee ligament injury. Cardiff have concerns over the fitness of Craig Noone (knock), Andrew Taylor (knock) and Mark Hudson (hamstring).

West Brom have won just two of their last 20 league games, keeping just a single clean sheet in that run, and no team has drawn more matches than the Baggies 13. Mel's side are without a win in their last five at home, and have won just one of their last ten at the Hawthorns - although six of those matches have ended all-square.

Cardiff have the worst away record in the league, taking just six points from their 15 games on the road. The Bluebirds have lost eight straight away from home, being beaten by a combined score of 19-4.

A second-half goal by Peter Whittingham was enough to earn Cardiff a crucial 1-0 win when these teams met in the Welsh capital back in December.

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