West Bromwich(WBA) vs Liverpool: Tony Pulis praises ever-present Darren Fletcher

Posted Sunday, May 15, 2016 by PA

West Brom boss Tony Pulis has hailed evergreen skipper Darren Fletcher as the midfielder looks to complete his ever-present record.

The 32-year-old has started every league game for the Baggies this season ahead of Sunday's finale against Liverpool.

He has made 44 appearances for Scotland and Albion this season, the most since he played 45 times in the 2009-10 season for his country and Manchester United before being struck down with chronic bowel disease ulcerative colitis in 2011.

Fletcher made just 20 appearances for United in two seasons between 2011 and 2013 as he battled the illness and Pulis praised the captain's comeback.

"Fletcher's played 37 (league) games this season, which is fantastic," he said.

"I don't think anyone's mentioned that, for the illness he had for him to come here and play 37 games - and be an absolute dream - is fantastic.

"He's been my player of the year by a country mile on the basis that he had such a time off. He's embraced the club and everything that goes with it, he's been a real ambassador.

"The kid's got a great attitude. For the kids like (Jonathan) Leko it's been wonderful for them to work with him along with the senior pros. The experience the kids get, to play with those sort of players, is fantastic.

"Hopefully we will try and integrate that a little bit more next year if we can."

Should Albion be awarded a penalty against Liverpool, they will be looking to improve on a miserable recent record.

The Baggies have missed four of their last five spot-kicks, with Saido Berahino failing with two in their 1-0 defeat to Watford last month, but Pulis is not reading too much into it.

He added: "Saido practises pens nearly every day and he's missed two consecutively. (Craig Gardner) will do the same, (Salomon) Rondon the same, (James) Morrison the same.

"It's a different pressure when you go out there on a Saturday. Sometimes when players are playing well they can't pick the ball up quick enough to take it."

James McClean (back), James Morrison (hamstring) and Chris Brunt (knee) are all out against the Reds while Stephane Sessegnon is a doubt.

Meanwhile, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has warned his players it makes no sense to think about the Europa League final ahead of the trip to West Brom.

The Reds appear in their first European final for nine years when they face Sevilla in Basle on Wednesday but before then they have to complete their domestic programme at the Hawthorns.

However, Klopp has stressed he does not want to see anyone coasting or trying to protect themselves for next week.

"In these 90 minutes it makes no sense to think about anything else and that is what we have to learn," he said.

"If you want to be 100 per cent successful you have to be 100 per cent in the situation you are in at this moment.

"It is not about having 50 per cent or 30 per cent concentration for another thing, that is not how professional football works.

"If we can't do it in this moment then we have to learn to do it in the future but if we can't do it on Sunday then there is no chance to get anything at West Brom.

"It's very important because we can still move up two positions in the table. It's not in our hands but the only way to climb the table is to win the game at West Brom.

"In this moment Sunday afternoon is the most important game in the world."

Klopp is likely to rest a number of his first-choice players for the trip to the Midlands and even those selected on Sunday, particularly someone like Joe Allen, may find it difficult to force their way into the team for the final.

The manager accepts he is going to have to upset some players but insists that is something that goes with the territory.

"When they started playing football they knew there was a number where the line-up ends, whether it's 11 or 18," he added.

"I don't want to disappoint anyone but I have to make decisions."

Klopp could have even more decisions to make as there is an outside chance captain Jordan Henderson (knee) and striker Divock Origi (ankle) could be available after being out injured for a month.

There is also a chance striker Danny Ings, who has been sidelined since October after cruciate knee ligament surgery, could make the squad for West Brom as he is ineligible in Europe.

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