Hawthorns

Watch Live: West Brom vs. Norwich City (Lineups and Discuss)

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It’s an important match at The Hawthorns today, with both West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City needing a win to give them a bit of breathing space (10 a.m. ET; watch live online via NBC Sports Live Extra).

This should make for an interesting matchup. Oddly enough, despite being three places behind West Brom in the standings, Norwich actually have more wins — the Baggies are just better at grabbing a draw, with six compared to Norwich’s two. But, despite a late midweek comeback at the Hawthorns, West Brom were unable to snatch a draw against Manchester City. That leaves the hosts without a win in their last four and in danger of being pushed toward the bottom three.

Still, the Albion are not in as much danger as Norwich. Yes, they’re just a point behind the Baggies, but their inconsistency, coupled with their tendency to lose dramatically — 5-1 at Liverpool midweek, and remember the 7-0 thrashing by Manchester City — means Chris Hughton fights a pretty consistent battle for his job. It won’t help that they’re without Robert Snodgrass, who’s scored in the last two matches, thanks to a knee injury. Gary Hooper does return, though, after starting the last match on the bench.

Lineups

West Bromwich Albion: Myhill, Jones, McAuley, Lugano, Ridgewell, Yacob, Mulumbu, Amalfitano, Sessegnon, Brunt, Anichebe

Subs: L Daniels, Dawson, Long, Vydra, Popov, Morrison, Berahino

Norwich City: Ruddy; Whittaker, Turner, Bassong, Olsson; Redmond, Howson, Johnson, Fer, Elmander, Hooper

Subs: Nash, Martin, Hoolahan, Garrido, Becchio, R Bennett, Josh Murphy

Paolo Di Canio fired by Sunderland: Favorites, and whither Jozy Altidore

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Paolo Di Canio was only in charge of Sunderland for six months, two-and-a-half of which featured no competitive action. That may lead some to hint he wasn’t given enough time, a conclusion precludes the possibility of somebody quickly showing he wasn’t right for the job.

While Di Canio kept Sunderland in the Premier League last year, he only took eight points from seven games. After his offseason changes and slow start to this year’s Premier League, there was no evidence beyond hope that he would be a success with Sunderland.

Whether Ellis Short and Margaret Byrne made the right move, however, will be dictated by Di Canio’s successor. There is no point getting rid of a head coach if his replacement doesn’t improve the club, so if Sunderland were to go out and sign, say, Richard Farley, the Di Canio departure all of a sudden looks rash.

Thankfully for Short and Byrne, there appears to be a wealth of candidates to be wooed. From The Guardian:

Ellis Short, Sunderland’s American owner, is expected to move swiftly with Robert Di Matteo, the former Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion manager, and Gus Poyet, until recently in charge of Brighton, among the favourites. Roberto Mancini, out of work after leaving Manchester City, has previously expressed interest in the job but would probably be beyond Sunderland’s budget. Meanwhile Steve McClaren, currently helping Harry Redknapp coach QPR, is probably an outsider.

All of those men would be an improvement on Di Canio, but the question is whether Short can lure any of them north. That’s part of the reason the timing of this move was so crucial. If Sunderland  continued dropping points, it would have been more difficult to convince a quality boss to board a sinking ship. Five matches into the season, there’s still time to turn things around.

Whomever Short tabs will be responsible for answering the question on many American soccer fans’ minds: What does this mean for Jozy Altidore? The U.S.’s first choice number nine was relegated to the bench on Saturday, with Di Canio electing to start Steven Fletcher and Fabio Borini. With Fletcher separating his shoulder at The Hawthorns, Altidore looked set to resume a first-choice spot, but if the new boss goes to a one-front, Fletcher, Altidore, and Borini will be fighting for one spot. Those wouldn’t be good odds for a man who started this weekend on the bench, and even if the new coach persists with a two-forward set, does Altidore beat-out one of the other two? You’d think so, but every man sees their players differently.

Ten months out from the World Cup, Altidore and the U.S. will be particularly interested in whom Short tab to succeed Di Canio. Given the options, however, Sunderland almost certainly made the right move.

Stephane Sessegnon scores a revenge goal against Sunderland

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West Bromwich Albion, concerned about their lack of goals this Premier League season, managed to sign Stephane Sessegnon just hours before the transfer window closed, paying a club-record £6 million for his signature. As if that pressure weren’t enough, the Benin international was handed his first start on Saturday against his former club, Sunderland.

Black Cats’ manager Paolo Di Canio added fuel to the fire before the match, accusing Sessegnon of not caring about the club, and playing as though he wasn’t prepared to give his best. West Brom manager Steve Clarke, however, wasn’t concerned about the player’s reputation, stating that he would have the hunger and the desire to prove himself at The Hawthorns.

Turns out Clarke was correct. It took just 20 minutes for Sessegnon to score his first goal for his new club. Scott Sinclair got on the end of a cross from Morgan Amalfitano, but Keiren Westwood was able to save. However, the ball bounced off the Sunderland keeper’s hands and straight into the path of Sessegnon. The attacker wasted no time in proving Di Canio wrong, sending his shot to the bottom right hand corner.

West Bromwich Albion vs. Sunderland: Lineups and discussion

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Do we have our first relegation battle of the season? 19th placed West Bromwich Albion welcome Sunderland to the Hawthorns, with both sides absolutely desperate to collect points (10 a.m. ET, watch live online via NBC Sports Live Extra).

West Brom are clearly suffering from a lack of Romelu Lukaku, as evidenced by the fact that they’ve scored just one — yes, one — goal in their first four league matches. That goal finally came last week, when Gareth McAuley put in the equalizer against Fulham in injury time. With Lukaku now at Everton, the Albion are hoping veteran Nicolas Anelka and new signing Stephane Sessegnon will manage to put them back on track.

Today Sessegnon makes his West Brom debut against his former side, hoping to impress just behind Nicolas Anelka. With former boss Paolo Di Canio speaking out against Sessegnon this week, stating the attacker did not care about Sunderland in his final few weeks with the club, Sessegnon will have even more reason to prove himself to his new side.

Di Canio, for his part, must be wondering if his days at Sunderland are numbered. The Black Cats’ only point this season comes from a 1-1 draw against Southampton in the second round. Since then they’ve lost 3-1 to both Arsenal and, perhaps much more embarrassingly, newcomers Crystal Palace. It looks as though Di Canio’s team has the potential to put forth a good attack, but then again, it’s looked that way for the past two weeks as well. Perhaps a more solid defense should be the answer?

West Brom Starting XI: Myhill, Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell, Amalfitano, Mulumbu, Morrison, Sinclair, Sessegnon, Anelka.

Sunderland Starting XI: Westwood, Celustka, Diakite, O’Shea, Colback, Johnson, Gardner, Ki, Giaccherini, Fletcher, Borini

Wigan starts trademark surge with win at West Brom

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Wigan’s leaving it late this year, but as Saturday’s performance at The Hawthorns proved, there’s at least one more survival surge Roberto Martínez’s men. After strong performances against Manchester City and Tottenham failed to win full points, fueling doubts as to whether they could perform another great escape, the Latics have rebounded, pulling back two leads at West Brom on Saturday before Callum McManaman’s 80th minute winner gave them a dramatic 3-2 victory.

For much of the match, the back-and-forth affair looked set to clear up England’s relegation picture, with goals from Shane Long and Gareth McCauley giving West Brom two home leads. Yet playing to type, Wigan surged late, scoring the gam’es final two goals to secure full points.

The three points aren’t enough to get Martínez’s team out of 18th place, but they do pull Wigan within a number of targets the Latics can pass on their way to survival. With three games to play, Wigan have 35 points and a -22 goal difference. Sunderland, also having played 35 games, are only two points ahead and coming off a 6-1 trouncing at Aston Villa. Newcastle’s two points in four games leave them only three up on Wigan, having played an additional game. And after falling at home to Villa today, Norwich City is in the same boat as Newcastle: three points up; one fewer game to play.

Also in Wigan’s favor, should this come down to them and Newcastle or Norwich: The Latics would likely have a goal difference edge, should they pull themselves even with the Magpies and Canaries.

Today’s match didn’t present many edges for Martínez’s side, with Long putting Norwich up in the 29th minute. Arouna Koné quickly pulled the goal back, though, sending the sides into half tied at one. After half, a McCauley header gave West Brom their second lead, but between Jamie McArthur and McManaman, Wigan surged back, taking full value from their must-win match.

Had they drawn, Wigan would be four back of the 17th place, offsetting the advantage of their match-in-hand. But thanks to today’s win, that match-in-hand gives them a rout to survival. With a run-in of Swansea City, Arsenal (away), and Aston Villa, Wigan may be able to find enough points to pass one of their stumbling competitors.