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Dec 28, 2012

Depleted West Brom recall Thorne

West Brom have recalled George Thorne from his Peterborough loan to ease injury pile-up for Saturday's game at Manchester United.

• Blog: Baggies benefit with Brunt in centre

The 19-year-old, who has been impressive in Posh's recent winning run, goes into the squad for Old Trafford in the absence of fellow midfielders Claudio Yacob and Youssouf Mulumbu.

Albion also have major doubts over defenders Jonas Olsson (groin) and Goran Popov (hamstring), have already as good as ruled out Steven Reid again and even had head coach Steve Clarke as an absentee today. He is struggling with a virus that has troubled his backroom staff over the holiday.

The fitness concerns have not stopped the club lining up Chris Wood's sale to Leicester City, though. He is back training at the Premier League high-fliers after a prolific stint in the Championship with Millwall but is due to move to the East Midlands next week in a deal worth around £1.25m.

"We'll have a body count by the end of the day," said assistant head coach Keith Downing today. "It's such a quick turnaround between matches at this time of year.

"The gaffer is off today but we hope to meet up with him later. He's having a day in bed and hopefully shaking it off in time for tomorrow.

"Squad rotation was always in his mind and we have a squad which is as strong as it has been for three to five years.

"We feel all the players here are capable of stepping up and making a difference. Whatever 11 we put out won't weaken the team."

Albion have bounced back from three successive defeats by recording 2-1 victories against Norwich City and Queens Park Rangers in the last week and stand sixth in the table.

But Downing admits they are still not as fluent as earlier in the season, when they won well against the likes of Liverpool and Everton.

"At the start, we played really well," he added. "We played attractive football and opened teams up.

"As the season has gone on, respect for us has built and we've had difficulty opening teams up and have had to dig some results out. We've shown the grit, resolve and determination to do that.

"The games haven't been classics but they have been really important results and show we have a resilient group of players.

"The fact the games are coming thick and fast and the pitches are getting heavy are important factors. But, over 38 games, you have to grind results out. They are first and foremost.

"We've surprised a few people but I don't think we've surprised ourselves. We're a work in progress and 33 points at half-way is a fantastic return for us. We are still aiming at 40 and to then assess once we get there.

"We're not jumping ahead of ourselves. We make sure we're very focused for each game."

Albion hit back from two down to draw at Old Trafford in 2010-11 and lost a tight game there last season after having Olsson sent off.

But United extended their lead over neighbours City to seven points on Boxing Day and remain the ultimate test for Clarke's side in a festive programme that ends with the New Year's Day visit of Fulham.

"Sir Alex has mentioned that there are weaknesses which are a cause for concern but they have a lot of individual quality," Downing said.

"There's an opportunity for us to go there with a freedom to our game and hopefully give a good account of ourselves."

Albion hope all their injury problems are short-term and expect to have Mulumbu back from a hamstring-related problem before he prepares to fly to the African Cup of Nations early next month.

Reid, out since the defeat at Arsenal earlier this month with ankle bruising, is also making good progress.

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