STEVE Clarke expects Manchester City to be pushing for the title this term – but hopes his men can add to the visitors’ current away-day misery in tonight’s Hawthorns encounter (ko 8pm).
Manuel Pellegrini’s third-placed side will arrive in the Black Country following a nine-goal blitz to secure back-to-back home wins over Tottenham and Swansea.
But City have picked up just four points from a possible 18 on the road this term, suffering defeat four times – as many games as they lost in total on their travels last season.
And Clarke is hoping his troops can bounce back from their 2-1 reverse at Newcastle on Saturday with a positive result against one of the Barclays Premier League’s big hitters in front of a home crowd.
"We've a really good home game against one of the sides that will compete for the title, which are the type of games we like, we look forward to, with a good atmosphere,” he said.
“Hopefully it will be a good night for our supporters.
"It's been quite a strange league this year in that some of the so-called bigger teams have dropped points against sides they wouldn't have expected to drop points against.
"Man City at home have been a different team to Man City away, that's clear.
“They've four points from six away games, which is not title-winning form, but it's something they'll address in the coming months.
"For us, it's about making sure they don't address it too quickly!"
He added: "If you'd asked me at the start of the season I would have said 'yes, Manchester City are title favourites'.
"But this far into the season I'd say Arsenal. They look a good team who deserve to be where they are, they've a nice little gap at the top.
"Manchester City will be one of the teams competing for the title, but at the moment Arsenal are in a good position.
“City have Southampton at the weekend which is also a big game for them.
“I’m lucky enough to have been in a position at Chelsea where you know what you have to do to keep in touch at the top of the league.
“You have to win those matches.
“Yeah, tonight it’s a game where they probably feel they have to win.
But it’s a game for us where we feel we can get something out of it, so it should be a good game.”
Edin Dzeko was City’s matchwinner in both games between the two sides last season, coming off the bench at The Hawthorns to score twice in the last ten minutes and pinch the points 2-1.
Clarke admits the giant Bosnia-Herzegovina international is one of a number of threats the Citizens have all over the pitch - but he insists his men should hold no fear of competing with them.
"You instil confidence in your players, it's as simple as that,” he said.
"If you look over the history of football it happens the so-called big team doesn't win the game it's expected to win.
"So there is no reason why you can't instil that confidence in your players and make them believe they can beat anybody at the right time, and given the right circumstances.
"Obviously if you are playing against a top, top team with world-class players, like Manchester City - and world class is not a title that should be thrown around loosely - you probably need them to be a little below their best and we have to be very close to our best.
"But we've shown on a number of occasions that happens quite a lot to us.
"The biggest thing for me is they've a number of matchwinners who can turn the game in a moment, and if you've got that then you've always a chance of winning.
"Goals can come from all over the pitch.
“They're also a big team, a strong team at set=plays, so we have to be at our best to get anything out of the game.
"They've had some big wins, but we go into the game with no fear.
"We'll look to be as competitive as we always are.
“By and large since I've been here we've been competitive in almost every game, and we'll look to continue that."
He added: "Last season we got ourselves into a winning position, and then City - like the good team they are - got back in it and the game looked like it was going to be a draw.
"But my players were so enthusiastic we went chasing the win. If we had been a little more sensible and decided 1-1 against City was not a bad result then that's how it would have finished.
"But we got caught on the counter-attack trying to get the winner, and you have to say it was a top-class counter-attack goal from Man City.
"We have to be on our guard it doesn't happen again.”