YOUSSOUF Mulumbu says beating the pressure he felt at the African Cup of Nations will stand him in good stead for the tough challenge that awaits him at Anfield on Monday (ko 8pm).
The DR Congo midfielder admits his first taste of a major international tournament was a shock to the system.
But he believes the lessons he learned in South Africa will help him keep his nerve as the Baggies look to turn things around against the in-form Reds after a run of just one point from 18.
“It’s always good to represent your country and play for your flag,” said Mulumbu.
“It was really interesting and I learned a lot from this competition.
“I think I can handle the pressure because it was a big pressure.
“Before the first game against Ghana I remember I was shaking.
“My team-mates even asked me if I was okay and they were a little bit surprised because they said ‘you play against Manchester and Chelsea and don’t really show pressure’.
“But in the African Cup of Nations I felt big things on me, so that was interesting.
“I learned a lot that will help me here and I feel more confident now, so that’s a good thing.
“The pressure at Anfield will be different and I’m used to that.
“It’s a big game and we’re not in good form at the moment.
“But I think one win will get us back on track – and if that comes at Anfield that will be good.”
Mulumbu was forced to sit out last Sunday’s 1-0 defeat by Tottenham due to a knee injury.
His African Cup of Nations commitments mean he has not played for the Baggies since New Year’s Day.
And he is chomping at the bit to return to Barclays Premier League action and help show Albion’s impressive form during the first half of the season was no flash in the pan.
“I’m hungry to show what I learned in the African Cup of Nations,” he stated.
“I feel like my team-mates missed me and they have said how happy they are to see me.
“I hope to be selected in the starting XI.
“I’m really hungry and I’m looking forward to playing this game.
“I want the game to be tomorrow!
“I’m quite confident for the rest of the season because we’ve got all the squad available again.
“We have a good team, Claudio [Yacob] is back, and all the players are there like Brunty and Mozza.
“I’m confident I will add something to help the team."
He added: “If we hadn’t played well to win games earlier in the season I think you could say we were lucky.
“But the way we played and showed strength meant we deserved to win those games.
“Recently we’ve missed chances and we’ve had injuries to key players.
“The squad is looking in good shape again now and we’re going to fight for our target.
“We’re still in a good position and Liverpool only have two more points than us.
“We just need one win to get back to good habits.
“I’m not really worried about what other people say.
“I’m really confident in my team-mates and I’m sure we can kick-on.”
And back on the international front, Mulumbu hopes he can go one better and help his country qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The Leopards battled out three draws in their African Cup of Nations group and were unfortunate not to qualify for the quarter-finals.
“We looked strong but we missed something in our attack,” he said.
“DR Congo don’t have a key player like [James] Morrison behind the striker to give him some good ball.
“I tasted the African Cup of Nations and it has made me greedy to play for my country more.
“It is unbelievable the way the fans are behind us.
“We have World Cup qualification to aim for now and we’re in a good position, second behind Libya.
“We’ve got three games to go and if we win all of them we will go to the World Cup, which will be something great for our country.
“But we also need to add some of the players who play in Europe to our squad, players like Yannick Bolasie at Crystal Palace and Steven Nzonzi at Stoke.
“I think with this African Cup of Nations we are improving and we’ve shown we are a good side with quality players.
“We can build on that for the future.”