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Oct 17, 2012

Clarke calm about Mulumbu loss

West Bromwich Albion face the prospect of being without their influential midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu for up to six matches in the New Year – but Steve Clarke is confident he can cope.

• Blog: Toughest test of all

Mulumbu has this year come out of international retirement and is hotly tipped to be part of the DR Congo squad for the African Cup of Nations in South Africa during January and February.

That may deny Albion of his services for five Premier League games, plus a potential FA Cup fourth-round tie. But their head coach says the club will be able to overcome the lengthy absence of a man who has been key for them since signing in 2009.

"We spoke about this at the start of the season," Clarke said. "We knew there was a possibility we would lose Youssouf if he decided to come out of international retirement. We discussed it and we think we have enough in the squad to cover any absences in January.

"If not, it's a good month for it (to happen) because the transfer window is open again then and, if you need to address the situation, you can. Many things can change but, as things stand, we are comfortable with the squad we have."

Graham Dorrans and George Thorne would be the main current contenders to fill Mulumbu's defensive midfield role while another expert in the 'holding' position, Paul Scharner, left in the summer.

The tournament takes place from January 19 to February 10 but players are likely to be called away by their countries up to a fortnight before the first ball is kicked.

Albion also have Nigerian international Peter Odemwingie at the forefront of their in-form but he hasn't been summoned by his country since Clarke's appointment.

The Baggies' New Year programme is a daunting one, including matches against Aston Villa, Everton, Tottenham and Liverpool – four of the opponents against whom they have done so well in their impressive start to 2012-13.

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