After picking up their first win of the season the Baggies welcome Crystal Palace, a side looking to bounce back from two straight defeats. But with confidence surely at an all time high the Albion will be hopeful to get some more points on the board before a tricky festive period.
The lunchtime clash on Sunday will see the return of Roy Hodgson back to the Hawthorns with a Palace side that sit seven points ahead of West Brom. Bilic has reason to be confident however; his side dug in so well against Sheffield to earn a much deserved win that keeps them well in with a chance of survival.
Team news and Predicted XI
It is suspected that Albion will try and field a team similar to the one that beat Sheffield last weekend. The three central defenders and wing-backs appears to be the catalyst for successful performances so far.
However, this system might have to be altered somewhat. Bilic has revealed that the knock to Townsend picked up against Sheffield has resulted in an injury which has the potential to keep him out for 4-6 weeks. A disappointing blow for all parties as Townsend has been one of the players along with Johnstone who have made an excellent step up in their game.
Gibbs, who recently recovered from Covid-19 along with Livermore, will certainly be in the mix to regain his spot in coming weeks, but it remains to be seen how match sharp he actually is having not featured since his dismissal at Goodison Park.
Might we see a switch back to four main defenders or can we expect one of the wingers to take the place? Maybe a deeper role for Phillips who certainly has the physicality to keep up and made the switch to wing-back well after Townsend left the field.
Pereira and Gallagher will again have to play an instrumental role in the upcoming match should Albion hope to come away with some points. Gallagher bagged his first Premier League goal with a finely placed long range effort on Saturday. Pereira on the other hand recorded the highest number of chances created this season – a glimpse perhaps, that he is getting back to his best.
I also expect Sam Johnstone to be busy: Townsend, Zaha and Eze certainly have the quality to test him from longer distances.
The biggest boost for Palace is the return of Zaha. The Ivorian talisman, who has been absent due to a positive Covid-19 test, has been given the all clear following a period of isolation. His inclusion comes at a perfect time, off the back of two defeats. Palace struggled to replace his creativity.
Hodgson has also confirmed that set piece specialist Luka Milivojevic is also back in the mix which will certainly be a plus with penalties seemingly a formality in todays game. However, it remains unlikely that he will break back into the side immediately.
Aside from the threat of Zaha, Albion will be all too aware of the threat that Eze poses. He scored a fine goal at the Hawthorns in the culmination of last season which saw the Baggies clinch promotion. The attacking midfielder has also replicated some of the form that made him a standout performer in the championship last season.
Full-back Patrick Van Aanholt also offers goal contributions going forward. The attacking fullback’s quality in and around the box has created many chances this season and Ajayi will have to be on top form to nullify his threat.
Again, I expect another cagey game as both sides will be desperate not to lose. The key for Albion will be to keep Zaha quiet. Ivanovic, who struggled with the pace of Burke last time out will more than likely be targeted by the pace and skill of the Palace attack.
With the attacking nature of Palace’s full-backs the counter attack will be a viable tactic. We can expect plenty of diagonal balls to either flank in order to try and exploit the space in behind. The commanding centre-half Scott Dann will likely have the aerial beating of Grant, but if Pereira can pick up good spaces centrally then Grant will have the pace to exploit space in behind.
Diangana also has the potential to be a good asset this weekend; left out against Sheffield who are a notoriously physical team, his pace and skill might thrive against a Palace side who opt for a more rudimentary 4-4-2. Yet I suspect him to be employed as an impact substitution.
Gallagher and Sawyers, who seem to be forming a strong partnership, also might have some joy against a traditional 4-4-2. The midfield overload might not be as much of an issue this weekend, so the pair will be looking to dictate the play as much as possible.
With Palace and Newcastle to play (should the latter game go ahead) it is vital to grab some more points going into a tough run. A win and a draw would be a good starting point, avoiding defeat this weekend is probably the biggest priority to try and keep confidence ticking over to Newcastle. But the boys will go in fresh and full of confidence from a weeks break following an excellent win last time out. So there is certainly a reason to be optimistic.
Match Prediction: Albion 3-2 Palace