West Bromwich Albion welcome Birmingham City to the Hawthorns on Saturday as both sides get their 2019/20 Championship campaigns back underway.
The delay to the season has now stretched on for more than three months but the second tier of English football is set to resume on Saturday and the promotion-chasing Baggies face a visit from their local rivals.
The two sides will meet at in a slightly different 3pm kick-off, with no fans allowed in the stadiums but the game available to watch online for season ticket holders.
With that in mind, we’ve outlined six things we expect to see in the clash between West Brom and Birmingham on Saturday…
It’s been more than three months since either side played a competitive game and the players have spent much of that period in lockdown, so there is likely to be some initial rustiness.
Sure, sides have been back in training for a few weeks now and the Baggies even beat Manchester United in a friendly last week but it’s likely to take a bit of time until sides are playing back at their best.
That could mean more excitement and more opportunities in the final third, which is hardly a bad thing.
A free-scoring game
On top of the increased opportunities that a bit of rustiness could bring, if this game is anything like the last meeting between the Baggies and the Blues, it could be a free-scoring one.
West Brom beat Birmingham 3-2 in the reverse tie back in December and there’s no reason to believe we aren’t going to see a similar sort of game this time around.
No side have scored more Championship goals than the Baggies this term, while Pep Clotet’s side hasn’t exactly got a flawless defensive record.
A bit of bite
It may be the first game back for both clubs but it is still a West Midlands derby, so you’d expect there to be some bite from both sides.
Birmingham are a side that aren’t afraid of getting a bit physical, while the Baggies have got a number of players that won’t walk away from a battle.
With West Brom chasing promotion this term, you feel the Blues would love nothing more but to knock them off their stride in the first match back. Even without fans present, this game could get spicy.
Some inspired moments from creative players
This tie is not short of impressive attacking talent, with the Baggies boasting the likes of Matheus Pereira, Grady Diangana, Callum Robinson, and Matty Phillips, while Blues duo Jude Bellingham and Jeremie Bela have been particularly eye-catching this season.
Fans have been longing for the return of football for nearly three months now and this game looks as though it could remind us exactly what we’ve been missing.
The players will be excited to be back, so we might get some inspired moments as they enjoy being back on the pitch.
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Players looking to impress
With just nine games left of the season, both teams have players whose contracts are set to expire this summer and they’ll surely be looking to impress.
That may be to impress their current sides or just to try and draw some interest from other sides ahead of the transfer window.
With Clotet set to leave the Blues at the end of the 2019/20 campaign, there may be a number of Birmingham players that will be determined to prove their quality over the next nine games and cement a place in the thoughts of whoever the incoming manager is.
The Baggies could be playing Premier League football next year and many of their players will want to prove to Bilic and his coaching staff they’re good enough to be relied upon in the top flight.
An away win?
The Baggies will, without doubt, be favourites for this one given the league position of both sides but should we be expecting a league win?
German football has given us a preview of what the return of the game behind closed doors may look like and how it could affect results.
In the Bundesliga, there have been just 11 wins from the 55 games so far, so perhaps home advantage will be a thing of the past and we should be expecting an upset from the Blues.
We’ll find out on Saturday.