Belfast Telegraph

Win crucial for Chris Brunt's West Bromwich Albion as fight for survival hots up

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland star Chris Brunt says tomorrow's Premier League clash between West Brom and Fulham is one of the biggest of his career.

Brunt will captain the Baggies in the vital relegation battle at the Hawthorns with both sides desperate to secure the points in their bid to avoid falling into the Championship.

WBA are only out of the drop zone on goal difference while Fulham, rooted to the bottom of the table, are four points adrift of their opponents. Between them these clubs have had five managers this season and the crucial game at the Hawthorns will be the first for the latest Cottagers boss Felix Magath.

Brunt is well aware that Fulham players will want to impress the tough German, but insists that Albion will be up for the battle too.

He says they have to be.

"It has been a while since we've had a game this important," said 29-year-old Brunt, who along with team-mate Gareth McAuley will be interested to see who Northern Ireland land in Sunday's Euro 2016 qualifying draw.

"If we win, we can hopefully put a little bit of distance between ourselves and the other teams at the bottom. It would lift everyone but Fulham will be saying the same thing.

"It's a big game for them as well. They've just changed their manager so I'm sure they are going to be fighting for their lives.

"We've only won four matches all season and if you look at the points we're on now, we're probably going to need to win at least the same amount again to stay up.

"The games are running out quickly and if we can get a win on Saturday it could be crucial."

Ahead of the final 12 games of the campaign, West Brom boss Pepe Mel took his players away for a six day training camp in Spain which Brunt feels has enhanced the spirit in the squad for the run-in.

After the heroics of last term when West Brom finished eighth in the Premier League this has been a disappointing and curious season with Steve Clarke sacked in December and the Baggies bizarrely doing better against Champions League chasing sides than those at the wrong end of the table.

Recently they have drawn at home to Everton, Liverpool and Chelsea taking their total to 13 points against those in the top half yet they have only claimed 11 points against the rest of the sides.

Brunt says: "The last three home matches have been good results against teams who are doing well so it's important we follow that up with a win against a team who are down and around us.

"That's where we're letting ourselves down at the minute. We're struggling against the teams that are down there with us," Brunt added.

Relegation for West Brom would be a nightmare for Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill, who wants as many of his players as possible performing at the top level in England before the Euro qualifiers start later this year.

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