Good afternoon Premier League fans. A packed super Sunday begins at The Hawthorns in just under an hour's time, with Swansea City
the visitors to take on West Bromwich Albion
as both sides look to kickstart their league campaign.
Even at this early stage of the season it really is all to play for in the Midlands this afternoon, as two teams who have struggled to find their rhythm early on look for positive signs to build on before the international break. Going into that layoff without a point is not a scenario Michael Laudrup
's men want to contemplate, while the Baggies have home advantage as they bid for a first victory.
Goals have been the principle problem for West Brom, drawing a blank in their first two league games of the campaign. Their cause was not helped by the untimely absence of Nicolas Anelka
last weekend, but after dealing with some personal problems the Frenchman has returned and is in the squad to face Swansea today.
has been forced to be fairly prudent in the transfer market this summer, but the loan signings of Matej Vydra
and Scott Sinclair
should provide the creative spark Baggies fans have been crying out for in the final third. Vydra will miss this afternoon's game with a hamstring strain, but Sinclair trained with his new teammates this weekend and is in line for a home debut against his former club.
Swansea have faced similar problems with finding the target in their first two games, but in fairness a daunting start against Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur left little room for error. Michu
and Wilfried Bony
have both had a game each in a lone front role so far this season, but may be partnered together in the final third by Laudrup at the Hawthorns.
Laudrup was critical of his side following a defeat in Romania on Thursday, but the tie was won and progress secured in the Europa League. Swansea face a tough challenge to balance playing three times a week this season, so it will be interesting to see how an exciting side copes with a hectic workload culminating with a test against West Brom.
BREAKING TEAM NEWS!
We have just received word on the starting XI's from the Hawthorns, with Scott Sinclair
making his Baggies debut. Anelka also returns to the starting XI after compassionate leave. A full look at both teams will follow in just a few moments.
WEST BROM XI: Myhill, Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell, Morrison, Yacob, Mulumbu, Sinclair, Anelka, Long
Vorm, Rangel, Williams, Chico Flores
, Davies, Canas, Shelvey, Michu
, Routledge, Hernandez, Bony
Anelka's inclusuion is a welcome boost for West Bom, with the Frenchman back to partner Shane Long
in attack. The duo failed to click in their first game of the season against Southampton, but get another chance to find an understanding this afternoon.
also gets the nod ahead of youngster Luke Daniels
for the Baggies, with Ben Foster
on the long-term injury list. Daniels came on and helped Clarke's side keep a clean sheet against Everton last week, but returns to the bench this afternoon.
Swansea have picked a side full of attacking endeavour this afternoon, with Wilfried Bony
getting his first Premier League start in attack. Michu should just play just off the Ivorian, while Pablo Hernandez
and Wayne Routledge
will provide support from the flanks.
Michu, Ashley Williams
and Bony all missed the trip to Romania in midweek with minor knocks, but return to the starting XI this afternoon. Nathan Dyer
and Neil Taylor
are still sidelined for the visitors, with Ben Davies
and Hernandez taking their place.
Let's take a look at the options available to both managers in reserve this afternoon, which could potentially be crucial in a match between sides both looking to forget an inauspicious start to the campaign. West Brom have Chris Brunt on the bench today, while Swansea could turn to Alejandro Pozuelo.
WEST BROM SUBS: Daniels, Berahino, Lugano, Dawson, Rosenberg, Brunt, Dorrans
SWANSEA SUBS: Tremmel, Richards, Amat, De Guzman, Britton, Lamah, Pozuelo
Sinclair will definitely be a player to watch out for this afternoon. The winger has much to prove after being left out in the cold by Manchester City last season, with Roberto Mancini never really giving him a chance to prove his worth.
The Baggies will also surely target the area in-behind Ben Davies out wide this afternoon. The youngster struggled to contain Andros Townsend at White Hart Lane last week, so expect that wing to be an area of interest in Clarke's team talk today.
Central midfield should provide an intense battle this afternoon which both sides will be desperate to dominate. Jose Canas will sit just behind Jonjo Shelvey
for the visitors in that position, while Mulumbu and Yacob will keep watch for West Brom, with James Morrison given license to roam forward.
PREDICTION! Both sides are desperate to change their fortunes before the international break, which makes picking a winner at the Hawthorns all the more difficult. I'm just going to plump for Swansea to snatch a slightly surprising win on the road this afternoon, with Michu to net his first of the season in a 2-1 win.
Both sides have just taken the field at the Hawthorns, with Scott Sinclair getting some half-hearted jeers from the travelling Swansea contingent. Kickoff is just a matter of moments away in this early clash between bottom and third bottom in the Premier League!
Swans skipper Ashley Williams
should also have a point to prove as he leads out the Swans, after being released by West Brom as a teenager.
A change of ends before we start at The Hawthorns, with West Brom primed to get us underway shooting from left to right.
Swansea are caught in possession early on as Anelka catches Routledge out in his own half, with Chico conceding a rash early free kick after bringing down Sinclair near the corner flag. The cross comes in but is hammered clear, allowing the visitors to push out of their own half.
The visitors break forward and win a free kick just outside the penalty area, after Mulumbu bundled over Michu on the edge of the area. Shelvey, Hernandez and Michu all want to take, but the Englishman wins the argument to curl well over Myhill's goal.
West Brom are next to threaten in an exciting start, with Anelka beating the offside trap to break clear out wide. The Frenchman has plenty of time to look up and find a teammate in the penalty area, but his low cross is well read by Vorm who dives to claim in the six-yard box.
A slick Swansea moves sees Hernandez drift inside and create an overlap for Michu, with the Spanish striker blazing over after being allowed space on the edge of the area. An early sighter for Michu, who you would expect to find the target given time ans space from that range.
An end-to-end start shows no sign of letting up as Routledge breaks clear at one end before curling straight to Myhill, before Sinclair drives on but lacks support out wide. Billy Jones then commits a cynical foul on Routledge as the visitors look to counter, and is rather fortunate to escape without a caution.
Swansea's full-backs are quick to burst forward as the visitors continue their positive start with a burst from Rangel down the right. His cross goes straight to Myhill at the near post, but plenty of reasons for visitors to be happy about early on as they crowd out Jones inside the penalty area.
A neat West Brom move sees Anelka breeze past Chico before feeding Morrison. His shot form a tight angle is blocked behind for a corner by a vital covering challenge from Williams for a corner kick. Anelka has made a good start this afternoon, dropping off to make the kind of intelligent runs Clarke is looking for in the final third.
I full expected West Brom to try and exploit Davies down the left and that has been an early trend, with Mulumbu taking advantage of space down that flank to win a cheap free kick after a challenge from Michu. From the cross Morrison's header looks destined to find the net, but hits his own teammate Long standing in the six-yard box. That should have been the breakthrough!
Bony and Michu link up swiftly as Swansea win a corner kick at the other end, with Routledge's chipped cross headed away by McAuley. From the corner Shelvey's delivery is knocked behind for another corner, with Myhill eventually punching clear.
Morrison is just caught offside as a promising break comes to nothing for West Brom. Anelka had time and space after Hernandez was caught in possession in midfield, but as he found Morrison out wide the linesman's flag was quickly raised.
GOAL! West Brom 0-1 Swansea (Davies)
Swansea have the lead through the unlikely source of full-back Ben Davies, who makes a late run to slam home a confident volley from close range. The opportunity was created by Pablo Hernandez, who wriggled free to chip a teasing cross into the box. A static West Brom defence failed to track a forward burst from Davies, and the young Welshman took full advantage to find the top corner with authority. Advantage Swansea!
Swansea are really struggling to keep posession as Rangel makes another run down the right, flashing a cross which trickles across the area before Ridgewell eventually hammers clear. The Hawthorns crowd are urging their team to respond, as Mulumbu brings the ball forward to find Long.
YELLOW CARD! McAuley picks up the game's first caution for a late lunge on Bony out wide. The Ivorian showed neat close control to flick past his marker on the halfway line, giving the referee no choice but to book the Northern Irish defender.
Scott Sinclair gets on the ball to a chorus of boos from the away support, but in truth has been quiet so far this afternoon. West Brom probe patiently as Ridgewell gets some space out wide, but his cross is blocked away.
Morrison and Mulumbu exchange neat, intricate passes on the edge of the area, which leads to a speculative volley aimed towards goal from Yacob. His shot trickles wide despite Sinclair's attempts to get a late deflection on the strike, but finally some signs of life in the final third for the hosts.
Michu just puts too much on an attempted pass into Routledge inside the penalty area, in a move which saw the Spaniard link up brilliantly with Bony. That is the kind of inventive play in the final third which Laudrup wants to see from his side this afternoon.
YELLOW CARD! Yacob goes into the referee's notebook after tugging Michu's shirt twice to stop the forward breaking into space in his own half. The Argentine is normally a likely candidate to be cautioned but cannot be accused of persistent fouling this afternoon, with Mike Dean issuing a card purely for that cynical challenge.
Hernandez shields the ball from two defenders to help Swansea launch another counter, but Canas and Shelvey choose to retain possession with the half drawing to a close. West Brom are pressing in midfield but failing to win the ball back, as Bony fires into Myhill's arms with a powerful strike from distance.
Swansea look content to keep possession as we play out an additional minute of added time, with Michu eventually finding Routledge in space out wide. An overlap from Davies is ignored as he cuts inside, drifting a cross out for a goal kick that was intended for Bony at the back post.
HALF TIME West Brom 0-1 Swansea
Much to ponder for Baggies fans at the break as Swansea head into the break holding a lead they fully merit. Laudrup's side had 61% possession in that first half but broke the deadlock through an unlikely source, with Ben Davies racing forward to lash home a volley for the opening goal.
Swansea have unsurprisingly kept the ball well this afternoon, but it's pace at which they are breaking down both flanks which keeps causing the hosts all sorts of problems. Davies and Rangel have proved willing runners from full-back on either side, creating overlaps which are catching West Brom unprepared consistently.
Laudrup has also dropped Shelvey slightly deeper next to Canas in a more reserved midfield position, which has worked wonders for the visitors. West Brom have all too often had Morrison and Anelka occupying similar positions just off Long, who has had precious little service to work with in the first period.
Clarke must be concerned that his three-man midfield has failed to either keep possession or press the ball effectively so far this afternoon. Brief joy for the Baggies has come down the right when Billy Jones joins in, but Davies bombing on at the other has made those breaks seem few and far between.
Sinclair has also been disappointing so far his West Brom debut, much to the amusement of a vocal away end at the Hawthorns. Expect Clarke to make changes if he fails to see an instant response in the second half, with Brunt, Dorrans and exciting youngster Berahino among those looking to make an impact from the bench.
SUBSTITUTION: Albion have decided to make a change in midfield at the break, with Dorrans replacing Morrison. Swansea have just got the second half underway, quickly deciding to keep possession deep in their own half.
Shelvey is furious with himself after misplacing a pass in midfield, allowing West Brom to get on the ball in midfield. Dorrans takes advantage to fire forward, but the visitors are able to clear.
Anelka just threatens as he robs Chico of possession in the final third, before offloading to Sinclair. Mulumbu joins the attack but quickly gifts possession to Canas, putting his side back under pressure.
YELLOW CARD Dorrans is quickly booked after bringing down Hernandez out wide. The Scot was always second favourite in a race out wide and decided to attempt a last-ditch sliding challenge, getting a caution he fully merited.
Jones just fails to make an overlap into the penalty area count out wide as Davies shields the ball out for a goal kick. Mulumbu and Anelka both looked bright their in possession, as West Brom continue to probe in this second half without creating any clear-cut opportunities.
Baggies fans are furious as Long fails to win a free kick just outside the penalty area, with Swansea wasting little time in breaking down the other end as Shelvey finds Davies out wide. His cross is eventually cleared by Albion, but Canas is quick to pick up the pieces in central midfield.
YELLOW CARD! Michu exchanges angry words with the referee after being clipped by Yacob, insisting that the Argentine should be given a second yellow card for his late tackle. The referee takes a long time to talk to the Spaniard who continues to protest, which eventually sees Mike Dean produce a caution for the forward.
Hernandez breaks free out wide and produces a fantastic cross which misses Bony by inches, with Ridgewell deciding to smash behind for a corner kick under pressure at the far post. The visitors continue to pile forward when the following corner kick is cleared, with Williams caught offside when another cross is fired forward.
YELLOW CARD! Anelka plays a nice pass into space out wide in search of Ridgewell, but the full-back stays still as the ball trickles behind for a goal kick. Just a lack of understanding there between the two new teammates, as Olsson brings down Bony as Swansea break at other end. The Baggies skipper knew what he was doing there and gets booked for his efforts.
SUBSTITUTION: Swansea decide to make a conservative change to shore things up in midfield. De Guzman is on for Bony, which means Michu should push higher up to play in the vacated lone front role.
Anelka twists ans turns away from Rangel out wide, showing superb close control to win a free kick out wide. Both players laugh about the tangle of legs when they get to their feet, but when Dorrans delivers the cross Yacob fails to direct his header towards goal after leaping highest in the penalty area.
YELLOW CARD! Just a minute after committing that foul on Anelka a booking for persistent fouling arrives for Rangel. When play resumes Hernandez picks out Routledge with a superb through ball on the counter, but his touch is just too heavy and allows Olsson to make a vital covering challenge.
SUBSTITUTION: That heavy touch from Routledge proved to be his last action of the afternoon, with Alejandro Pozuelo brought on in his place. When play resumes West Brom win a free kick which finds McAuley at the far post, but the defender's header at full stretch fails to trouble Vorm's goal.
Sinclair turns neatly and finds space in a central area for the first time today, but just rushes a pass to Anelka out wide as Swansea get numbers back to clear. At the other end the visitors are quick to find Pozuelo, who fires well over from distance.
SUBSTITUTIONS: A double change from West Brom as they go in search of an equaliser and their first goal of the season, with Berahino and Rosenberg coming on for Sinclair and Yacob. I make that four forwards on the pitch for the Baggies as we head towards the closing stages, with Pozuelo booked for bringing down Ridgewell when play resumes.
Concerted West Brom pressure wins a corner kick, which is cleared at the near post as Dorrans fails to beat the first man with his delivery.
This time it's Swansea's turn to threaten as they break from midfield with an alarming amount of space. Hernandes eventually drifts inside and attempts to unleash a quick shot, which is deflected behind for a corner kick. At the other end Myhill smashes a goal kick long, but Rosenberg is caught offside as Rangel steps out in time.
OFF THE CROSSBAR! Another superb Swansea counter has just seen the visitors go within inches of putting the result beyond doubt. It was Hernandez who raced onto Michu's long pass, cutting inside to curl an effort off the crossbar as West Brom were left exposed in defence chasing the game.
GOAL! West Brom 0-2 Swansea (Hernandez)
Game set and match at the Hawthorns as Hernandez gets a goal he fully deserves. Michu created the chance he couldn't miss, reacting to a loose ball in the area before having the presence of mind to lay in his teammate. Unmarked from eight yards the Spaniard fired high into the roof of the net, ending this game as a contest.
West Brom fans are leaving in their droves as we head towards stoppage time, with the Swansea fans understandably in terrific voice. Just two minutes of stoppage time now for the Baggies to register their first goal of the season.
FULL TIME West Brom 0-2 Swansea
Well in the end Swansea claim a comfortable first win of the season at the Hawthorns this afternoon, courtesy of strikes from Davies and Hernandez. West Brom will be bitterly disappointed with their display today, as their search for a first goal of the season stretches beyond a third game.
That just about wraps up out live commentary from the Hawthorns. Thanks for joining Sports Mole and be sure to stay in touch for comprehensive coverage of a busy Sunday in the Premier League. Good afternoon!