Sport Soccer

Thursday 14 December 2017

Pulis: Baggies lucky to have Foster

Ben Foster, pictured, has been praised by his West Brom manager Tony Pulis
Ben Foster, pictured, has been praised by his West Brom manager Tony Pulis

Tony Pulis has hailed West Brom's Ben Foster as one of the top flight's best goalkeepers as he prepares for his showdown with Fraser Forster.

The Baggies ace has kept 10 clean sheets this season - with Southampton and England rival Forster two ahead on 12 in the race for the golden glove.

The pair are battling for the national number two spot behind Joe Hart and meet when Saints visit The Hawthorns on Saturday.

Boss Pulis managed Foster at Stoke, although he never made a first-team appearance, and believes the 31-year-old is up there with the best.

"Ben always had the potential and the talent to be a top goalkeeper," said Pulis.

"He's had a smashing career, we are very fortunate to have a goalkeeper of his quality here.

"He's done exceptionally well for himself and this club and long may that continue.

"People will talk about Ben and the clean sheets but it is not just him, it is the back four and the others in front of him.

"They have all worked tremendously hard to make us solid when we haven't got the ball.

"The last couple of games at home we have looked a threat going forward too and if we do that again this weekend we will give Southampton a game."

Albion are sweating on the fitness of top scorer Saido Berahino after he was tackled by Lee Cattermole in the 0-0 draw at Sunderland last weekend.

The 16-goal striker will be assessed while James Morrison (hamstring) is also a doub, although Victor Anichebe could return after a groin problem and make the bench.

"Berahino got a kick which he's struggling with - he got 'Cattermoled' in the first half," Pulis said.

"We are hoping Victor might be able to train Thursday or Friday.

"We only have three forwards in the club so it is important they are all fit.

"Victor gives us that bit more and can be a foil for either of the other two (Berahino and Brown Ideye).

"There will come a time when one of them needs a rest. Fingers crossed they will get us the goals we need to stay up."

Ronald Koeman believes the way Southampton perform in the next two matches against sides fighting for their Premier League status could be crucial in determining how high Saints finish this season.

Southampton go to West Brom bidding to bounce back from the 2-0 home loss to Liverpool which dented their Champions League dream.

The Baggies and next Tuesday's opponents Crystal Palace are five points clear of the relegation zone entering this weekend's fixtures.

And while their ambitions are at different ends of the standings, Koeman knows his fifth-placed side must show their ability and be more efficient against West Brom and Palace.

"We will play a lot for our chances for a high position in the table in the next two games. We have to realise that," he said.

"We have to be prepared for that. I think we're doing well, if you go back to the game against Liverpool, we played well.

"We deserved much more than we got. Now it's about being more effective.

"That's maybe the question at the moment. We're not effective enough to score and to win games. (But) total feel of the team I am happy."

Pulis has provided added steel to West Brom since being installed as manager, and Koeman is wary.

The Dutchman said: "I have watched two games of theirs the last few weeks.

"It's normal that, as a manager, coming into a new team, you try to sort out the defensive organisation. They have.

"It's not easy to score against them. All the results are very close, not a lot of goals in their games.

"Always the opponent has more ball possession, but it's not always about having ball possession. It's about what you make of that.

"They're very strong in set-pieces, because they have as a team, the highest score of scoring at set-pieces.

"They fight for every point and they play out of the qualities that they have. That's the best you can do as a manager."

Sadio Mane could start after being punished for his poor timekeeping.

The Senegal winger was late ahead of the Liverpool clash and was a substitute.

Toby Alderweireld (hamstring) is nearing a return and could come back into contention for the Palace game, but Jay Rodriguez (knee) and Emmanuel Mayuka (groin) remain out.

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