World Football

EPL: Baggies, Hammers Come into Sunday's Match in Poor Form

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 08:  Manager Steve Clarke of West Bromwich Albion speaks to Liam Ridgewell of West Bromwich Albion as he is substituted during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion at Emirates Stadium on December 8, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images
Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistDecember 14, 2012

Just a month ago, West Bromwich Albion and West Ham United led the discussion of clubs that could pull off a surprise this season and finish in the top four.

On Sunday, the two clubs will face off against each other at The Hawthorns with a combined one win in the last three EPL Matchdays

West Brom came into the season as an unknown quantity with Steve Clarke taking charge as a manager for the first time in his career. 

Wins over Liverpool and Everton to start the season shocked many people who watch English football.

The Baggies continued their impressive start to the season by taking 14 points out of their first seven matches. 

After losses to Manchester City and Newcastle, many believed that the Baggies would fade back into the middle of the EPL table and not contend for European competition. 

Clarke and company rebounded from those two losses with a four-match winning streak, which included a 2-1 win over Chelsea and a dominant 4-2 victory at Sunderland

Just when things were beginning to look positive again, the Baggies made a trip into the Liberty Stadium to face Swansea City on November 28. 

Three first-half goals by Swansea flattened any positive momentum that West Brom had going into the match.

Following the 3-1 loss to Swansea, the Baggies have fallen to Stoke and Arsenal.

What is more frightening than the club's current three-match skid is that they have gone 225 minutes without a goal.

The last goal scorer for the Baggies was Romelu Lukaku, who found the back of the net just before the end of the first half against Swansea. 

West Ham United face a similar situation. However, they are dealing with an injury crisis to two key players in their midfield and the man that they have relied on to score goals is also out hurt at the moment.

The Hammers took 11 points out of their first seven matches and were one of the biggest surprises early on in the season.

Since then, the Hammers have won just three matches and have fallen down to eleventh place in the table. 

Injuries have played a big part in the lack of success that Sam Allardyce's club has had.

The first player to be hit by the injury bug was Ricardo Vaz Te, who dislocated his shoulder in the club's 3-1 loss to Arsenal. 

It was revealed just a week after his injury was suffered that Vaz Te would be out for up to three months.

The injury concerns were compacted last week when Mohamed Diame was forced to leave the Hammers' match with Liverpool in the second half because of a hamstring tear.

Diame faces the same fate as Vaz Te and will be out for 12 weeks with a grade three hamstring tear. 

There is no doubt that the Hammers have felt the absence of Vaz Te in the attack and will suffer at the holding midfield position with Diame being out. But every good football club has players that are ready and willing to fill those voids. 

A combination of Yossi Benayoun and Gary O'Neil have tried to fill the void left by Vaz Te, and the responsibility of replacing Diame will most likely belong to James Tomkins

Another void that Allardyce is trying to fill is the one left by on-loan forward Andy Carroll, who is out for up to two months with a knee injury that he suffered against Chelsea on December 1.

The Hammers do have an able-bodied replacement at the forward position in Carlton Cole, who scored 17 goals last season in the Championship as the club earned promotion back to the EPL.

Adding insult to all of the injuries at Upton Park, the Hammers have just one win in their last four matches, the other three match results have been losses. 

It is not worth debating which club needs a win on Sunday more, because both clubs are facing difficult situations and a win would begin to cure their problems. 

The loser of this match may face a continuous slide down the table, while the winner will reap  the spoils of a valuable three points before the stretch run of the holiday season begins. 

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