LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28: Nicolas Anelka of West Brom celebrates scoring their first goal with Chris Brunt of West Brom during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion at Boleyn Ground on December 28, 2013 in London, England.

Watch Live: West Bromwich Albion vs. Everton (Lineups and Discuss)

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With the help of new boss Pepe Mel, will West Bromwich Albion be able to defeat Everton at The Hawthorns? (Watch live on NBCSN at 3 p.m. ET, or live online via NBC Sports Live Extra).

Currently sitting sixth in the Premier League, Everton travel to the Midlands knowing that a victory means pulling above rivals Liverpool in the table – and more importantly, taking control of that all important fourth spot, the one that could mean entry into the Champions League. Roberto Martinez will be hoping that Romelu Lukaku snaps out of his goalscoring funk to put one in against his former club. If it happens, that will be the Belgian’s first goal since late November.

But West Brom won’t be eager to have their new manager’s debut tarnished. Pepe Mel, last seen in charge of bottom of the table La Liga side Real Betis, takes the reins for the first time on Monday night. He’s stated that he’s set to have the Baggies playing a much more attacking style, an aggressive approach that will hopefully lift them further up the table. The Albion are currently 14th, just three points above the drop, and have won just once in their last eleven matches.


Zoopla have already announced their decision to terminate their sponsorship agreement with West Brom at the end of the season, but will this Baggies starting lineup cause them to demand the name be removed from the squad shirts? That’s right, Nicolas Anelka will start against Everton, while former Toffees man Victor Anichebe is on the bench.

For the visitors, was there any doubt? Of course Lukaku will start. Martinez makes two changes to the side that beat Norwich 2-0 last time out, with Sylvain Distin and Bryan Oviedo stepping in, while John Stones and Steven Pienaar drop to the bench. New Everton lad Aidan McGeady is on the bench.


West Bromwich Albion: Foster, Reid, Lugano, Olsson, Ridgewell, Brunt, Morrison, Yacob, Gera, Vydra, Anelka

Subs: Myhill, Mulumbu, Berahino, Jones, Anichebe, Sessegnon, Amalfitano

Everton: Howard, Baines, Jagielka, Distin, Coleman, Barry, McCarthy, Osman, Oviedo, Mirallas, Lukaku

Subs: Robles, McGeady, Hibbert, Heitinga, Stones, Vellios, Naismith

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.