May 16, 2017 at 8pm UK at ​Etihad Stadium
Attendance: 53,624
Man CityManchester City
West BromWest Bromwich Albion
Jesus (27'), De Bruyne (29'), Toure (57')
Sane (70')
FT(HT: 2-0)

Preview: Manchester City vs. West Bromwich Albion

Sports Mole previews Tuesday's Premier League clash between top-four chasing Manchester City and West Bromwich Albion at the Etihad Stadium.

Manchester City will have the chance to take another big stride towards Champions League qualification when they host West Bromwich Albion at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night.

City currently sit fourth in the Premier League table, but would move back into third ahead of Liverpool should they avoid defeat in their penultimate game of the season.

Man City

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola during the FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal on April 23, 2017© SilverHub

Even accounting for the unprecedented level of competition for a top-four spot this season, securing Champions League football was considered a given for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City before this season began.

Ten wins from his first 10 games at the helm suggested that pre-season predictions of a title charge were accurate, but City find themselves in the final week of the campaign still looking to wrap up their place in next term's Champions League.

It has been an underwhelming debut season in English football for Guardiola - certainly the toughest of his trophy-laden managerial career so far - but any slip-ups in the final two games against West Brom and Watford could turn it into a disastrous one.

Arsenal refuse to give up the chase for a place in the top four, remaining three points behind City and four behind Liverpool, who have played a game more.

Two wins from the final two games for City would seal third place and a direct route into the Champions League group stages, but with Liverpool expected to beat already-relegated Middlesbrough on the final day and Arsenal taking on Sunderland and Everton at home in their final two games, Guardiola will know that anything less than six points would rip their destiny out of their own hands.

On the flipside, should City beat West Brom on Tuesday and Arsenal lose or draw against Sunderland on the same night then City will have secured their place at the top table of European football with a game to spare.

A recent run of just two wins in nine games across all competitions saw City crash out of the Champions League and FA Cup in addition to putting their top-four place in jeopardy, but they have since returned to form with a 5-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace and a rather more nervous 2-1 triumph over Leicester City on Saturday.

Those results extended City's unbeaten streak at the Etihad Stadium to 14 games, and they could mark their final home outing of the campaign by recording a third consecutive win in front of their own fans for the first time since the beginning of January.

As with their local rivals Manchester United, though, it is home draws which have been the main issue for City this season, with only the Red Devils having shared the spoils on more occasions in front of their own fans.

Incidentally, results at the weekend ensured that City will finish above United for the fourth consecutive season - the first time that has happened since 1971-72 to 1974-75 - but Guardiola will know that his side are within reach of a much more valuable target now.

Recent form: WWDDWW
Recent form (all competitions): WLDDWW

West Brom

Tony Pulis prior to the Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Watford on April 16, 2016© Getty Images

While Manchester City have underperformed in the eyes of many this season, West Bromwich Albion have surpassed most expectations by keeping themselves comfortably clear of a relegation battle and long occupying a place in the top half.

That has come under threat due to their end-of-season form, though, with the Baggies still sitting eighth in the table but only three points clear of 12th.

Realistically the lowest they can finish is 11th place, but if they can hang on to their current position then they would equal their best-ever Premier League placing and their highest in the top-flight since 1980-81.

There is an incentive still there, then, but the formbook wouldn't suggest it. The Baggies are winless in their last seven matches, picking up just two points from a possible 21 since their impressive 3-1 triumph over Arsenal in March.

What's more, Tony Pulis's side have failed to even score in six of those seven matches. A league-high 47.5% of their goals this season have come from set pieces, including 15 from corners, which is also more than any other team in the division.

Indeed, since the beginning of April West Brom have the worst record in the Premier League, and a club-record points tally which once looked achievable now requires victories in their final two games against Man City and Swansea City to acquire.

Pulis has a reputation as a hard task-master who will not accept anything less than 100% from his players until the final whistle of the final game, but the stats suggest that his teams often take their foot off the pedal once they have reached the 40-point mark.

The Welshman has won just six of 45 Premier League games after his side have reached that tally, although he remains just one win away from setting a new personal-best points haul - with his 47-point season at Stoke City in 2010 the current mark to beat.

The Baggies did make things difficult for Chelsea before Michy Batshuayi's late goal clinched the Premier League title on Friday night, and City will take note of that as they also go in search of a win that would leave them within touching distance of their target.

Pulis has only ever won one of his previous 16 Premier League games against the Citizens, though, with that coming during his time in charge of Stoke in January 2009.

Recent form: LLLLDL

Team News

John Stones in action for Manchester City on September 10, 2016© SilverHub

Man City will have John Stones back available for the first time in more than a month after the centre-back returned to training following a muscular problem.

Fabian Delph is expected to miss the rest of the season with a leg injury he sustained in training, though, while Ilkay Gundogan and Claudio Bravo will not feature again this term either.

Guardiola must decide whether to welcome Sergio Aguero, who has directly contributed to six goals in his last four home league games against the Baggies, back into his starting lineup after the Argentine was reduced to a cameo role off the bench against Leicester.

Any return for Aguero is unlikely to come at the expense of Gabriel Jesus, though, with the Brazilian having now scored five goals from seven shots on target in the Premier League.

The match will also give the Etihad the chance to say goodbye to cult hero Pablo Zabaleta, who recently announced that he will be leaving the club after nine years this summer.

West Brom will be without Gareth McAuley in a Premier League match for the first time this season after he was forced off against Chelsea on Friday.

The centre-back joins Matty Phillips on the sidelines, while Hal Robson-Kanu is battling to overcome a hamstring injury and Sam Field is a doubt due to an ankle problem.

Man City possible starting lineup:
Caballero; Fernandinho, Kompany, Stones, Clichy; De Bruyne, Toure, Silva; Sterling, Jesus, Sane

West Brom possible starting lineup:
Foster; Dawson, Wilson, Evans, Nyom; Brunt, Livermore, Fletcher, Yacob, McClean; Rondon

Head To Head

Man City have dominated this fixture in recent years, winning each of their last 10 Premier League meetings - their second-longest winning run against an opponent in the division (12 vs. Newcastle from 2009-2015).

Another defeat would match West Brom's longest losing streak against a single opponent in the Premier League, and they haven't won away to Man City since a 2-1 victory at Maine Road in February 2003.

The reverse fixture in October saw City cruise to a 4-0 victory at The Hawthorns, with Aguero and Gundogan both helping themselves to a couple of goals each.

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We say: Man City 2-0 West Brom

You can never expect a Tony Pulis side to make things easy, but West Brom have not been able to buy a win in recent weeks and Man City have little choice but to pick up all three points here. We're going for a relatively comfortable home victory for Guardiola's side.

Who will win Tuesday's Premier League clash between Man City and West Brom?

Man City
West Brom
Man City
West Brom
John Stones in action during the Premier League game between Chelsea and Manchester City on April 5, 2017
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