Belfast Telegraph

Gareth McAuley insists West Brom can put pressure on Chelsea

By Tim Rich

Gareth McAuley believes his West Brom side can keep the pressure on champions Chelsea this weekend.

Jose Mourinho's side have made a stuttering start to their title defence, slipping five points behind leaders Manchester City.

City won the battle of the blues 3-0 at the Etihad Stadium at the weekend and Chelsea will expect a rough ride at the home of the Baggies on Sunday (1.30pm).

Northern Ireland defender McAuley is confident West Brom, who played out a scoreless draw with newly-promoted Watford on Saturday, will click into gear.

"It's a difficult start but we've taken points off the big teams before so we've got nothing to be afraid of in the games and sometimes that can be an advantage," he said.

"Every game in the Premier League is a difficult game, especially against the teams at the top.

"Chelsea last season was difficult enough. They're still a very good side. I know they were down to 10 men early in the first half but it's a difficult game. Now we can get our teeth into it and that's what this week is about."

McAuley returned to the fold on Saturday after missing the defeat to Manchester City but the winning feeling still eludes him this season.

"We've got a lot of improving and a lot of work still to do on the training ground and a lot of bodies still to bed in," added the 35-year-old, who hopes to be involved in Northern Ireland's crucial Euro 2016 qualifying double header against Faroe Islands and Hungary next month

"If we can do that as quickly as possible we can move on and start getting wins. We know we've got to do better and be braver when we've got the ball.

"We've got new bodies bedding in to the way we do things and my pre-season has been interrupted by injury as well so I'm still playing catch-up on the rest of the lads. We know we set better standards last year and we know we've still got work to do but we've got to get back to that quickly.

"Any point away from home in the Premier League is a good point. We haven't played well and we haven't got going yet in the two games we've played but if we're looking for positives it's a clean sheet away from home and it's a point. This league is ruthless and any point is a good point but we want to get better."

Meanwhile, McAuley could be reunited with his international comrade Jonny Evans at West Brom if the Baggies can net the Manchester United centre-back.

Arsenal, Everton and Stoke have been linked with the 27-year-old, who is valued at £12million, but West Brom manager Tony Pulis is keen to give Evans a chance to revive his career at the Hawthorns.

Athletic Bilbao lifed the Spanish Super Cup after a 1-1 draw against Barcelona sealed a 5-1 victory on aggregate.

It is Bilbao's first trophy in 31 years.

Belfast Telegraph

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