Preview: West Bromwich Albion vs. West Ham United

Sports Mole previews the clash between West Brom and West Ham at The Hawthorns as the Baggies look for a first home win since January to aid their survival hopes.

West Bromwich Albion Pepe Mel has described this weekend's visit of West Ham United as the biggest game of his short tenure as they continue to fight the drop.

A 3-1 defeat at Manchester City on Monday left the Baggies two places and three points above the bottom three with four games of the season remaining.

West Ham at home on Saturday is arguably the most winnable match of a run in that includes trips to fourth-placed Arsenal and relegation rivals Sunderland.

Mel has predicted that 37 points will be a survival-clinching tally of which West Brom are currently four short, and stressed the importance of nearing that total with victory in their "cup final" against the Hammers.

If the Spaniard's prophecy is correct, then West Ham are already safe, but three consecutive losses mean that Sam Allardyce's men are yet to mathematically secure top-flight football for next season.

This run of form has resulted in renewed criticism of the style of play employed by Allardyce, with Hammers fans complaining that his direct tactics are contradictory of the club's traditions.

Andy Carroll is a big part of this approach, but the £15m club-record signing's return of two goals in 13 appearances since making his comeback from a foot injury is unlikely to seduce Roy Hodgson into giving the striker a place in his 23-man England squad for this summer's World Cup in Brazil.

Joey O'Brien is back in training earlier than anticipated after suffering a dislocated shoulder earlier in the season, but he is not expected to feature again this season as a precautionary measure.

Therefore, Guy Demel should return at right-back following illness, while, on the other side of the back four, George McCartney could be preferred to Pablo Armero, who was branded "stupid" by Allardyce last week after his foul gifted Crystal Palace the penalty which decided their meeting at Upton Park.

Mel also has problems to attend to in defensive positions, but he has already revealed this week that midfielder Chris Brunt will be asked to step in at left-back in the absence of regular Liam Ridgewell.

Zoltan Gera is definitely out, and centre-half Gareth McAuley faces a late fitness test on a muscle problem that prevented him from travelling to Eastlands, with Craig Dawson on standby to deputise again.

Victor Anichebe and Matej Vydra are vying for the lone striker spot in Mel's lineup as the Baggies go in search of a first Premier League win at The Hawthorns since New Year's Day.

Albion have conceded stoppage-time goals in the process of drawing their last two home matches 3-3.

Recent form

West Brom: LDWDLW

West Ham: LLLWWL

Possible starting lineups

West Brom: Foster; Jones, Dawson, Olsson, Brunt; Mulumbu, Morrison; Amalfitano, Sessegnon, Dorrans; Vydra

West Ham: Adrian; Demel, Reid, Tomkins, McCartney; Noble, Nolan, Nocerino; Downing, Jarvis, Carroll

Sports Mole says: 1-0

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Crystal Palace manager Tony Pulis smiles prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Hull City at Selhurst Park on January 28, 2014
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