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Mar 11, 2013

Clarke coy on Europa League hopes

West Brom manager Steve Clarke believes a Europa League place is likely to be beyond the scope of his in-form side.

• Blog: Albion end Swans hoodoo

Albion's home victory over Swansea on Saturday was their third in four games and lifted them above their latest victims.

But Clarke is unconvinced his side can qualify for European football for the first time in more than 30 years.

"We don't talk about the prospect of European football," he said. "We talked about getting to 40 points and we've done that, then we said let's get to 50 - and we are on our way.

"We have won nine games at home, which is good. But I think it's going to be difficult to get West Brom into Europe this year. There is only fifth position that is guaranteed a Europa League spot and for us to get that, we would have to go past Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton.

"To finish above those teams is going to be very difficult. I don't think at this moment that European football is a realistic opportunity for us. What is realistic is we can get to 50 points.

"I want to get to that because I don't want to be seen as telling untruths and that's what I said at the start of the season - that 50 points is realistic for us. I want to get 50 points or 50-plus. From where we are, to get to 55 is difficult but you can't take anything for granted in this League."

Clarke was delighted with the victory over the Capital One Cup winners and added: "The achievement was to beat a really good Swansea team at home.

"We went down there earlier in the season and they turned us over. They gave us a real hammering. We knew it would be a tough game and I think it was a really good performance. The effort and energy we had to show to stop Swansea as well were really good."

After beating the Swans for the first time in four Premier League meetings between the two, Albion face their ultimate bogey side when they visit Stoke on Saturday.

And Clarke has suggested that his leading goalscorer, Romelu Lukaku, might be shorn of one of his responsibilities - that of taking penalties.

His second-half spot-kick at the Hawthorns was saved by Michel Vorm and the coach said: "He might not get the next one. We've got one or two who are ready to step in.

"But he's improving all the time. It's good for him, which is why he came here, and it has been good for us because he has made a big contribution and it will be good for Chelsea in the future. We have to try and keep him."

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