West Brom warn Arsenal of physical approach

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The Independent Football

Roberto Di Matteo has told Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger that West Brom will adopt a physical but fair approach in tomorrow's Barclays Premier Leagie clash at the Emirates Stadium.

lbion head coach Di Matteo has sympathy for Wenger's demands that referees adopt a strong stance in protecting players from reckless challenges.

But the former Chelsea star also insists that proper tackling is part of the English game.

Di Matteo said: "My opinion is that football is a contact sport. Part of it is physicality - but it needs to be fair.

"Referees have to be strong and make sure the game is conducted in a fair manner where no players get injured. They need to protect the players.

"Sometimes it is just an unfortunate challenge, sometimes it is challenges that can be avoided when a player gets injured.

"It has got to be fair. No one wants to see players getting injured or breaking legs.

"I don't know what category we find ourselves in at the moment. We want to be competitive but we are not the bad boys of the Premier League at the moment."

The Baggies were beaten 6-0 at champions Chelsea on their last visit to the capital on the opening day of the campaign.

Di Matteo knows his side have to avoid similar mistakes against the Gunners but acknowledges it might still be not enough to stop them if they are at their best.

He said: "Arsenal are a good team, they play some good football and if you catch them on the wrong day, whatever you do may not be good enough.

"But we will try to find a strategy which gives us the best chance of getting something out of the game.

"After what happened at Chelsea, we knew we had to stop making the sort of little mistakes that give the opposition an advantage.

"If Arsenal outplay us you have to hold your hands up, but we want to be competitive."

Albion have shown their fighting qualities in recovering from going a goal behind to draw with Tottenham and defeat Birmingham and Manchester City in their last three matches.

But Di Matteo has mixed feelings about his side's ability to recover from losing situations.

He said: "You can look at it two ways. I am disappointed by the fact we have conceded and have had to come back in games.

"But on the positive side, the fact we have come back to win games is encouraging because teams that normally score first in the Premier League rarely lose.

"It is a habit (giving away the first goal) that we would like to lose."

Albion could be forced to make two changes from the side which overcame Blues last weekend.

Defender Gabriel Tamas is doubtful with a calf problem and could be replaced by Pablo Ibanez.

Winger Jerome Thomas has a groin injury and Cameroon international Somen Tchoyi is on standby to replace the former Charlton player.