Clarke praises Yacob impact
Steve Clarke has hailed Claudio Yacob as West Bromwich Albion's own discovery of the season as they prepare to face up to Swansea striker Michu who has spearheaded his own side's historic campaign.
West Brom and the Swans are not viewed as being among the Premier League's bigger spenders and have to cut their cloth accordingly in the transfer market.
But, within the space of four days late last July, each of them unveiled a player who raised few eyebrows at the time but has gone on to make a major impact on the top flight.
Michu scored for the 19th time in his debut season in England when he struck the second of the five goals by which Swansea beat Bradford City in last month's Capital One Cup final. A first full cap with reigning world and European champions Spain is said to be close.
At the same time, Yacob - also in his mid-20s - has been making himself at home in the Baggies' midfield, his effectiveness never more underlined than when the side's fortunes went downhill in his absence through injury in mid-season.
"It is very difficult to find a player that nobody knows about," said Clarke, Albion's head coach. "Michael Laudrup would have known about Michu from Spain - and Swansea's use of the Spanish market last summer was excellent.
"On my first or second day here, I had a pile of DVDs from Dan Ashworth and went through them all. Claudio was on them. He seemed to be slipping under the radar.
"I didn't know him before and it's very pleasing when he turns out to be so good. A player of that type is often a player's player or coach's player and doesn't stand out but, in doing the job for the team, he has also stood out and been exceptionally good. He has been a big, big bonus."
Yacob, capped three times by Argentina, was in the Albion side beaten 3-1 at Swansea in early November, when Michu scored one of the goals.
The midfielder moved from his native country on a free transfer when his contract with Racing Club ran out and his manager hopes he will become better still when he is fully settled.
"His English is much improved but I'm not sure he understands my Scottish!" Clarke added. "Off the pitch, he's a bit like you see him on it: quiet and determined. I feel he has more to say but he doesn't quite trust himself yet with his words."
Albion will give a late fitness check to striker Shane Long, who aggravated his recent ankle injury on Tuesday.