Birmingham City boss Lee Bowyer has warned his players face an improved West Bromwich Albion side from when the Baggies were in the Premier League last term, speaking to Birmingham Live.
Valerien Ismael’s side lost Conor Gallagher, Filip Krovinovic, Mbaye Diagne, Okay Yokuslu and Ainsley Maitland-Niles on the expiration of their loan spells at The Hawthorns in the summer.
But they recruited well to bring in seven players during the previous transfer window, including Alex Mowatt and Matt Clarke who are proving to be the two best West Brom signings so far. Mowatt has been especially good.
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The midfielder and manager Ismael spent last season together at Oakwell, with both playing a huge part in guiding the Tykes to the play-offs before falling narrowly short against Swansea City in the semi-finals.
Despite their eventual defeat, both received heavy praise for guiding the South Yorkshire side from 21st to fifth against all odds and have carried that winning mentality to the Baggies, with the West Midlands outfit going unbeaten in their first ten league games of this campaign before their defeat to Stoke City.
The signings of Adam Reach and Jayson Molumby to add strength in depth was also a shrewd bit of business, with this depth being identified as one of West Brom’s key strengths by Lee Bowyer.
He also went on to reinforce the daunting challenge his team will face tomorrow, saying in his press conference ahead of tomorrow night’s clash: “They have just come down from the Premier League and kept their players and improved their squad, so they should be doing well. They have got a lot of good players.
“Their players in the attacking third stand out to me more than anybody, when they get a chance they punish you.
“They have got pace, strength, their strength in depth in the squad is very good. They have got a certain way of playing and it works for them.
“We have to be ready to compete because if you don’t compete then they run over the top of you.
“They are very good at the way they play, similar to what they did last year at Barnsley, he [Valerien Ismael] has brought that here just with a better group of players.
“The way they play is quite regimented but they are good at it. We have got to find a way to break them down and keep them out at the other end – both boxes. The first goal is very vital, like every game.”
Mind games from Lee Bowyer?
Although West Brom will be expected to win this tie as automatic promotion contenders, Birmingham City need to start picking up points sooner rather than later after winning just one from 15 in their last five games.
A loss against a local rival will be another huge blow to the Blues, so this game could be crucial to their season. Even a point would set them on the right path again after a promising spell before the first international break of the 2021/22 campaign, so it’s definitely a match where the pressure is on both teams.
West Brom may have great strengths, but the potential absence of Alex Mowatt could allow the Blues to take advantage of a changed Baggies midfield, with likely replacement Jayson Molumby not receiving a huge number of first-team minutes during his loan spell so far.
Tomorrow’s away side also have strengths of their own, and although their attacking record has been poor recently, the threat of Scott Hogan, Troy Deeney, Lukas Jutkiewicz and Tahith Chong should make them a forced to be reckoned with at The Hawthorns.