West Brom’s second-round EFL Cup clash against Harrogate Town will take place on Wednesday, 16th September.
The Baggies will undoubtedly be considered the favourites ahead of the fixture, given that Harrogate Town are a newly-promoted League Two side, but the ‘magic of the cup’ could cause Albion a few problems if they aren’t careful.
Harrogate are coming off the back of a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Southend United – a side that had only just dropped down from League One – so they will have some momentum as opposed to Albion who were defeated by Leicester City at the weekend.
Team News and Predicted XI:
Albion will be without Kenneth Zohore, who is still struggling with a calf injury, and Matt Phillips, whose exclusion from the squad to face Leicester caught some fans by surprise until it was revealed that he’s currently sidelined with a back injury. Conor Townsend is in the process of recovering from an ankle injury and is lacking match fitness.
As for the side that Slaven Bilic may pick to face Harrogate, it will be a tough one to call. You can expect there to be some rotation as certain players are shielded from injury ahead of the weekend’s game against Everton.
In-between the sticks for this game could be David Button, who was recently signed from Brighton and Hove Albion. Although there is no real reason to drop Sam Johnstone, now is the ideal time for Bilic and his staff to see what Button is capable of.
A back four of Kieran Gibbs, Semi Ajayi, Cedric Kipre and Darnell Furlong would be robust enough to block out any real threat from Harrogate Town. Kipre and Ajayi have attributes that complement each other’s style and so could become a solid partnership at centre-back. Gibbs’ inclusion in the squad is questionable, however, and it depends on his fitness levels ahead of the match; Rico Richards could even get another chance to impress at left-back in his place.
A midfield partnership of Jake Livermore and Rekeem Harper could also work quite well. After Sawyers’ dire performance at the weekend, Bilic has reason to see if Harper can do any better in his place, while the captain Jake Livermore retains his spot.
Out on the left flank is Kyle Edwards, who appeared briefly towards the end of the Leicester game and freshened things up with his attacking presence; in the middle is Matheus Pereira, as he’s by far the best player in the squad so is a crucial part of the first team in any match; and on the right is Kamil Grosicki, who performed well for Poland in their last outing and can use this game to bring himself back to match fitness after a week or so of watching from the bench.
And, finally, upfront is Charlie Austin. Hal Robson-Kanu was largely ineffective against Leicester and the same could be said for Callum Robinson, who was repeatedly caught offside against the Foxes.
Albion’s Predicted XI: (4-2-3-1)
There appear to be no injury woes for Harrogate and so they can field a squad consisting of their strongest players against Albion and hope for the best.
It would make sense for Harrogate boss Simon Weaver to replicate the lineup that thrashed Southend 4-0 as it is clearly his strongest side on paper.
Harrogate’s first-choice goalkeeper last season was James Belshaw, but after Joe Cracknell kept a clean-sheet against Southend in their last outing, the 26-year-old may be selected again to see what he can do.
The centre-back pairing of Connor Hall and Will Smith may be flanked by Warren Burrell and Ryan Fallowfield, all of whom performed remarkably well in their last game.
Jack Muldoon, who is usually deployed as a forward further up the field, may again be chosen to play out on the left flank with the freedom to cut inside and shoot if an opportunity presents itself (he scored twice against Southend).
The remainder of the midfield four will likely consist of Lloyd Kerry (another goalscorer against Southend), Josh Falkingham and George Thomson.
Up top the striking duo of Mark Beck and Aaron Martin will need to be watched closely by Albion’s defence as Martin in particular was a handful against Southend, posing a constant threat throughout the game and managing to get on the scoresheet by the end of it. He was also Harrogate’s highest-rated player with 9.3.
Harrogate Town’s Predicted XI: (4-4-2).
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