Belfast Telegraph

Irvine seeks solace in City clash

West Brom boss Alan Irvine is relying on the Boxing Day visit of Manchester City to wash away the bad taste left by capitulation at QPR.

Manuel Pellegrini's big guns come to the Hawthorns on Friday, nearly a week after Albion's "extremely galling" 3-2 loss at Loftus Road.

Irvine's side had led 2-0 and were playing well when they somehow let Harry Redknapp's team turn the game on its head as Charlie Austin's hat-trick stole all three points.

The Scot is relishing the scrap with second-placed City - but particularly so after being left so annoyed by West Brom's last result.

"I'm still desperately disappointed about the QPR result and I need this game to move on completely," Irvine said.

"Overall it was a really good performance last weekend. We deserved to win the game and to come away with nothing at all was extremely galling.

"We have to learn from what went wrong but also build on the positives, because there were plenty of them."

Looking ahead to tackling City, he added: "It's a really good game for us. It's fantastic to have them coming because obviously they're a really top team.

"A lot was being made of the fact they didn't have any strikers for the game against Crystal Palace and they won 3-0, so it just goes to show the quality of the players they've got.

"They've got a squad full of players who showed that if you can pass and move and have great awareness and positional sense then you can create chances and score goals.

"It's normal to look for any weaknesses we can find and obviously a team like them do not have many. But hopefully there are a few we can exploit. And obviously we'll look at their strengths and see what we can do to counteract them.

Captain Chris Brunt is in line to return after he was unable to make his comeback from a hamstring injury against QPR last weekend.

Victor Anichebe (groin) is still not training but fellow forward Georgios Samaras is back after going home to Greece due to a family matter.

Graham Dorrans (calf) and Boaz Myhill (illness) missed training on Tuesday but are expected to be available.

Manchester City can equal a club record of nine consecutive victories with success.

City have hit form in the past month, with their sequence of eight straight wins carrying them into the Champions League's last 16 and cutting into Chelsea's lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League.

They trail Chelsea by just three points heading into the Christmas league fixtures having - briefly - been as many as nine behind at one stage last month.

Chelsea have responded to the champions' reinvigorated challenge by winning their last two but, after enduring an indifferent spell in October and November, City clearly have momentum.

Manager Manuel Pellegrini said: "We are playing now with the intensity and in style of play we always do. Again we have players in high level of performance and good moments.

"We are trusting in what we do so, in the same way maybe we played in a poor way two months ago, we are doing very well."

Victory at The Hawthorns will see City match a feat of winning nine in succession that they have only achieved twice before.

The first time was in the old Division Two between December 1909 and February 1910, with the second their much more recent hot streak of autumn 2011.

The latter sequence, when City truly asserted themselves in what was to prove their first Premier League title-winning season, most memorably included their 6-1 destruction of Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Last season they did win 18 out of 20 games across December and January but the most they won in succession was seven.

Their latest strong run was partly sparked by the brilliance of Sergio Aguero - most obviously by his brilliant hat-trick against Bayern Munich last month - but City have been without their star striker for the last three games.

The Argentinian is likely to be out another month with his knee injury and Pellegrini, although confident his team can maintain their momentum, acknowledges they need him back soon.

He said: "It is enough for me for us just to continue (playing) in the same way - I don't know if better things will come.

"In this moment we are playing in a high level but we always need to return, as soon as we can, Aguero and all the other players that are injured."

City are also without their other senior strikers, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic. Midfielder James Milner operated as a makeshift centre-forward for last week's victory over Crystal Palace with David Silva, who scored twice, behind him and that could be repeated.

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