Tony Pulis will be hoping to keep West Brom's successful track record against Sunderland intact as they travel to the Stadium of Light this weekend for a crucial fixture in their battle against relegation.
The team has won more games against Sunderland than against any other Premier League team, with eight wins from their 15 matches with only three defeats in that time.
In the reverse fixture on the opening day of the season, Albion drew 2-2 with Sunderland at the Hawthorns, Saido Berahino scoring both goals. Pulis will once be banking on the youngster to be the main goal threat for his team.
Berahino has certainly found his feet under Pulis after going through a barren run of form towards the end of 2014. Since Pulis' first game as West Brom's manager on Jan. 3, Berahino has scored seven goals and has also started adding more assists to his game. Berahino is being helped by playing in a two-striker system alongside Brown Ideye, rather than having to lead the line on his own as he did under previous manager Alan Irvine.
The young forward's game is more suited to running at or in behind the defence, looking for spaces where he can use his pace and undoubted technical ability to fashion a chance for either himself or his teammates. Berahino simply isn't suited to being a lone forward, playing with his back to goal and looking to bring others into play. Playing in a slightly deeper role, Berahino doesn't have to do that as much; he spends more of the game looking forward, making him far more of a threat.
Berahino has been helped by the remarkable turnaround in fortunes of club-record signing Ideye. The Nigerian forward has bulked up and seems much stronger than he was previously. In Albion's previous league game, the 2-0 home win against Swansea, Ideye was holding off Ashley Williams, a strong centre-back who had bullied Ideye out of West Brom's reverse fixture against Swansea.
Not only is Ideye holding the ball up and creating more space for Berahino to play in, but he is also easing the goal-scoring burden on the England forward. With four goals in three games so far in February, Ideye looks to have turned the corner after a poor start to the season. It's unrealistic to expect him to keep up that kind of scoring ratio for the rest of the season, but if he contributes another five or six goals, that will go a long way to keeping Albion in the top flight for another season.
Pulis recognises the importance of the forward duo and has stated that West Brom will have to hope they are "lucky" and that the pair stay fit. He's certainly right about that. Albion's failure to add another striker in the January transfer window has left them with only three senior forwards at the club. Victor Anichebe is the third man, but with his injury record, it's asking a lot for him to stay fit through until the end of the season.
Because of the reliance on Ideye and Berahino, Pulis must be hoping that his midfield will start to chip in with a few more goals. While Claudio Yacob and Darren Fletcher might not get many from the middle of the park, the likes of James Morrison and Callum McManaman will be expected to add goals to their game.
Morrison scored with a stunning strike against West Ham in the 4-0 win in the FA Cup last weekend, but it was only his second goal of the season. For such a talented player, who is clearly blessed with great technique, he really should score more than he does. The same can be said of McManaman, who has made a solid if unspectacular start to his career at The Hawthorns after arriving from Wigan on Jan. 28.
He does give Albion something they've been lacking previously, which is natural width and speed. But what's important is that he starts capitalising on the good positions he finds himself in. Under Pulis, West Brom have started getting more bodies in the box, which can only help a winger in picking someone out if he has more than one option.
The quality of McManaman's final ball has been decent so far, it's just his decision-making that he needs to work on. He sometimes takes the wrong option between crossing and shooting, or trying to beat one more man instead of playing an easy pass to a teammate. If he can develop this aspect of his game, he will be a huge asset.
A draw wouldn't be the worst of results for Albion at the Stadium of Light, as the pressure is on Sunderland to get three points. However, a win would be huge in keeping up the momentum Pulis has generated and creating even more of a points gap between them and the bottom three.