Promotion contenders West Bromwich Albion will be hoping to get back to winning ways this afternoon as they face bottom side Derby County at Pride Park.
Valerien Ismael’s men were last in action at Oakwell, failing to make the breakthrough against relegation candidates Barnsley despite creating enough chances to take all three points back to the West Midlands.
With Albion seemingly not suffering from a Covid outbreak recently though, they will have a chance to make amends against Wayne Rooney’s side, although their reasonably short journey to Derby won’t be an easy one with the Rams fighting for survival.
Quiz: Can you name which club West Brom sold these 26 players to?
Although they are battling to stay afloat in the second tier, their transfer embargo in the summer, administration and points deductions means very few people have given them a hope of staying up, so the pressure is firmly off them in this clash as they take on a side expected to be victorious later on today.
The Baggies’ lack of cutting edge in front of goal has been a major source of frustration for fans at The Hawthorns this season, dominating many games but failing to turn draws into wins as they have been unable to force their way back into the top two recently.
Nonetheless, they have a real chance to leap into second place temporarily above AFC Bournemouth and Blackburn Rovers, with the former not playing until this evening and the latter taking to the pitch again on Wednesday.
But looking towards this afternoon more specifically, we have selected the Albion lineup Ismael is likely to go with ahead of this clash.
Sam Johnstone is the man between the sticks again as one of the first names on the teamsheet, though it remains to be seen whether he will sign fresh terms at The Hawthorns to keep him at his current club beyond the end of the campaign.
One man that recently signed a new contract though is Conor Townsend, who provided a major boost for the Baggies at Oakwell when he returned from his Covid isolation along with Matt Clarke and Cedric Kipre who start in central defence.
Kyle Bartley also retains his place, leaving Semi Ajayi on the bench again despite being a regularly earlier in the campaign. The latter is most likely to be in direct competition with Kipre for a spot, though the ex-Wigan man seems to have become one of his manager’s favourites at Albion recently.
Darnell Furlong starts once again with his long throw a valuable weapon to the promotion chasers’ cause, although Taylor Gardner-Hickman can count himself unlucky not to be involved after performing well against Coventry City and Reading earlier in the month.
The return of many key defenders against Barnsley meant early-season midfield pairing Alex Mowatt and Jake Livermore were able to reunite in the middle of the park – and it would be a surprise to see that partnership broken up at this stage with Mowatt and Livermore both admired by Ismael. Jayson Molumby may have to wait quite a while for another start.
The only change in the lineup comes up top with Jordan Hugill making way for Grady Diangana. Hugill was unable to improve his fortunes in his last outing and was withdrawn in stoppage time after being on the end of a strong challenge from Michal Helik.
It remains to be seen whether he’s shaken that off in time for this match, although it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the front line rotated regardless of the Norwich City forward’s fitness. Callum Robinson moves into a more central position.