Manchester United vs. West Bromwich Albion: Can Red Devils continue to win with soft center?

Clive Brunskill

Somehow, despite a constantly rotating center of defense and a weak center of midfield, Manchester United are seven points clear at the top of the Premier League table. On Saturday, they face a team with a solid center, West Bromwich Albion.

Through some good fortune and a lot of goals, Manchester United are very much in control of the Premier League title race. Their defense has been a revolving door due to injuries, their goalkeeping has been inconsistent and their center of midfield is hilariously lacking for a world class side, but they score in bunches. Against another weak-centered team in Newcastle on Boxing Day, they were able to make up for their flaws. When they face West Bromwich Albion, they might get something a bit different.

That is, of course, assuming West Brom's best players can play. Both Yussuf Mulumbu and Jonas Olsson will face late fitness tests to determine whether or not they're able to start. If both are fully fit, United will have to deal with a team that's a bit stronger through the middle than they are, despite their very limited budget, and it's anyone's guess how they'll cope with that.

Manchester United injuries and suspensions

Out: Wayne Rooney (knee), Anderson (hamstring), Nani (Hamstring). In doubt: Phil Jones (fitness), Ashley Young (fitness), Danny Welbeck (illness), Rafael (hamstring), Shinji Kagawa (knee).

West Bromwich Albion injuries and suspensions

Out: Goran Popov (Hamstring), Claudio Yacob (Hamstring). In doubt: Yussuf Mulumbu (hamstring), Jonas Olsson (groin), Steven Reid (calf).

Remember when everyone was confused by Wayne Rooney's absence on Boxing Day? Turns out he's actually injured. He joins Anderson and Nani on the long-term injury list. Ashley Young and Phil Jones have knocks, while Danny Welbeck is recovering from an illness. Rafael and Shinji Kagawa are nearly back from their injuries.

Olsson will be a huge absence for West Brom if he can't pass his fitness test. He's been a rock in the center of defense for the Baggies this year. Claudio Yacob could return mid-week, but isn't expected to make the 18-man squad against the Red Devils. It'll be a massive boost for West Brom if Mulumbu is able to play.

Game date/time: Saturday, 3 p.m. local, 10 a.m. ET

Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester, England

TV: ESPN2 (U.S. - English), ESPN Deportes (U.S. - Spanish), TSN2 (Canada)

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