SC: PO return won't distract us
Fri, 08 Feb 2013 18:02:00
Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge will be assessed over the weekend to determine whether he is fit enough to face West Brom on Monday.
The England international pulled out of the midweek friendly against Brazil with a thigh problem sustained in last weekend's draw at Manchester City.
Winger Raheem Sterling, who also withdrew from international duty, is fit while new signing Philippe Coutinho has had his first week of training after his move from Inter Milan but may require more time.
West Brom left-back Goran Popov will start a three-match suspension after being sent off for spitting at Tottenham defender Kyle Walker, ruling him out of Monday's clash at Anfield.
Baggies midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu is in contention to return to the starting line-up for the first time since January 1 after returning to training this week following a knee problem.
Head coach Steve Clarke has to decide whether to recall striker Peter Odemwingie, who was left out against Spurs after the collapse of his transfer deadline day move to QPR.
Caley Thistle lost three games in eight days - including two cup ties against Hearts and Kilmarnock - before turning their attentions to tomorrow's visit of SPL leaders Celtic.
But Draper is determined to show the doubters this season's promise will not evaporate on the back of one week.
Inverness have come a long way since Terry Butcher assembled his team following a number of departures at the end of last season.
The previous visit of Celtic in August saw Neil Lennon's men win 4-2 but Draper's two late goals ensured the scoreline very much flattered Inverness.
But they subsequently only lost to Motherwell between that game and their current three-game losing run and won at Parkhead in November to prove wrong those who wrote off Inverness after that comprehensive defeat against Celtic.
Draper, who arrived from Macclesfield in the summer, said: "People are entitled to their opinion but we had a new team coming together.
"I think we have shown 20 games later, they are eating their own words. We have shown what we can do as a team that's used to each other.
"People are entitled to their opinions but it's nice to prove them wrong sometimes.
"The Celtic game at home was early doors, we hadn't moulded together as a team. We had a number of new faces and basically had a back four that hadn't played together.
"It took us maybe seven or eight games to get going and get our run started. We don't read too much into that game at home.
"The lads were terrific, I went down to watch them when I was injured, away from home against Celtic. Celtic are aware we could cause an upset on Saturday."
Draper insists nothing has changed in their approach since their losing run, which has seen luck go against Butcher's side.
They lost on penalties against Hearts in the Scottish Communities League Cup semi-final, were beaten by a late goal at St Mirren Park, and lost captain Richie Foran and playmaker Andrew Shinnie to injury in the first half of their William Hill Scottish Cup defeat by Kilmarnock.
And Draper has now set his sights on ensuring they make their season count as they look to hold on to second place in the SPL.
"It's more realistic now," he said. "Early on in the season people were saying: 'When is the bubble going to burst? They haven't got the squad to finish in the top six'.
"I think we have proved we can do that throughout the season.
"It might be a blessing in disguise that we have dropped out of the two cups so we can concentrate on the league and finish as high as possible. "Top six is very realistic for us but we want to finish in the top two or three if we can."
Clarke was unaware of an alleged bust-up between Odemwingie and right-back Steven Reid but believes his side are professional enough to deal with any tension in a positive manner.
Albion released a statement on Friday afternoon in which they confirmed the Nigerian international had been disciplined and had apologised for his recent actions.
The 31-year-old issued a series of Twitter rants against the club after a transfer request was rejected.
He then memorably turned up at Loftus Road without permission on transfer deadline day only to be left in the cold as his planned move to QPR collapsed.
Clarke said: "I don't think you can say everything is back to normal because what happened, the whole episode, is something that didn't need to happen.
"(But) I'm really pleased the club have come out with this statement because it gives me the chance as a head coach to move on.
"That's what myself and the players need to do. We need to move on and concentrate on the football. I think it is important you try and keep your squad together. That's what I've tried to do."
But Clarke admitted there may be some issues to resolve over time.
"It is difficult to comment on whether there is any hostility between individual members of the squad. They are in a different dressing room from me," he said. "Will Odemwingie's return have a destabilising effect? No it won't. I'm convinced of that.
"I couldn't deal with the matter until now. There was no resolution. Now there is a resolution we can move forward as a group of players. That is important."
He added: "I'm sure some of them will be happy the matter is resolved. In fact I'm hoping most, if not all of them, are happy the matter has been resolved and we can move on as a group of players.
"How people take it personally is between Peter and the other people. The most important thing is that professionally we move on as a group of players."
When asked to confirm if there had been a row between Reid and Odemwingie, Clarke said: "I don't know. If there has been a row between Steven and Peter, I'm sure it was an honest row.
"My biggest grievance on that one is if you are telling me someone in this building is letting stories out to the press, that's more upsetting for me than Peter and Steven having an exchange of words."
Clarke is still to decide whether Odemwingie will be part of the squad for Wednesday's trip to Liverpool.
He said: "That is still to be determined. I only got that statement half an hour before you guys so it's something we have to look at over the next two or three days. I'll involve him when I feel it is right to involve him."
Albion released the statement ahead of Clarke's weekly press conference at the club's training ground.
It read: "West Brom have taken disciplinary action against striker Peter Odemwingie in respect of his conduct over the past fortnight.
"Odemwingie has accepted his punishment. He will now resume full training with his team-mates and is available for first team selection."
Odemwingie said: "I understand how my actions have been viewed and I want to apologise to the club and our supporters for any distress I have caused.
"I want to reassure everyone at the club and our fans that I will continue to give my all whenever I am selected.
"We have enjoyed a good season so far and I aim to play my part in keeping the club as high up the table as possible."
Albion chairman Jeremy Peace said: "This has been an extremely difficult time for the club and it was imperative that we dealt with such a serious matter both fully and correctly.
"We made our position very clear throughout - both privately to Peter and publicly.
"Peter has apologised for his conduct to me personally and the club and our supporters as a whole.
"He has accepted his punishment and promised to comply with all club regulations moving forward.
"It was important that we resolved this episode as expediently as possible to enable everyone to focus on the most important issue at this club - competing in the Premier League."