West Brom boss Steve Clarke plays down talk of Europe

The Baggies have recorded back-to-back wins over Liverpool and Sunderland

West Brom boss Steve Clarke is not thinking about Europe despite his side putting their season back on track as he prepares to face former club Chelsea at Stamford Bridge tomorrow.

The Baggies have recovered from their Christmas and New Year slump via back-to-back wins over Liverpool and Sunderland to move on to the 40-point mark in the Barclays Premier League.

They are currently only two points behind sixth-placed Everton but Clarke, who spent 20 years as a player and coach with Chelsea, is playing down the Baggies' chances of attaining a Europa League spot.

Head coach Clarke said: "Forty points before the end of February is good. I was a bit disappointed we didn't reach 40 points before that because we had put ourselves in a great position.

"But we are there now. Are we safe? I don't know. By and large, if you look over the course of the Premier League history, 40 points is usually safe - but not always.

"I think it is better we look at the next few games coming up and try and add a few more points to the tally.

"I'm not sure the European spot is there. It only goes down to fifth in the league and at this stage of the season we're a little bit away from that.

"It's not something we will rule out because we're going to try to get as many points as we can between now and the end of the season.

"But if we look at the teams above us, it will be difficult to catch them."

Albion will be looking to complete a double over the Blues but Clarke insists he has "no extra hunger" to win against his former club.

He said: "We beat them earlier in the season and we played really well that day. We put on a good performance - one of our best of the season. It was a great win for us.

"But it will be a different game at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea are a team full of talent and their home record by and large is very good.

"It's a difficult place to go but we're confident, we're in a good place and we've managed to put back-to-back wins in the Premier League, which is never easy.

"We will go there looking to add to our points tally. But I want to win every week, I don't have any greater hunger to win at Stamford Bridge."

Clarke is unconcerned about whether the possible backlash against Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez by his own fans after his mid-week comments will work to West Brom's advantage.

He said: "I just want to win as many games as I can. I'm a professional. When you go to any of the bigger clubs, early on you have to stay in the game and that's what we'll focus on.

"The atmosphere, and whatever the Chelsea fans do or the media want to build up around it, is not a concern for us. We have to focus on what we do.

"I'm not relaxed because I want to get as many points as I can. That is my job. I want to push the players as hard as I can for the remaining 11 games and see how many points we can pick up."

Striker Peter Odemwingie could start for the first time since being reintroduced to the squad after his Twitter outbursts against the club during the January transfer window.

The Nigeria international was then disciplined after driving to Loftus Road without permission on the final day of the window only for the deal with QPR fall through.

On-loan Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku cannot face his parent club tomorrow and an ankle injury to Shane Long could present an opportunity to Odemwingie.

Clarke said: "Peter is fine. He has been good in training all week. He's worked hard and he knows Romelu can't play this week, so he knows he's got a chance to play at the weekend.

"I said before and I'll say again, Peter is an important part of the squad.

"It's an opportunity for Peter or maybe Marcus Rosenberg or Marco Fortune.

"I've said all season that I've got great forwards and they have all made a good contribution.

"I am pleased with all of them, and no matter which one or two play, it wouldn't be to the detriment of the team because they can all do a good job if Shane wasn't to make it."

PA

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