Albion make the long trip up to St. James’ Park this weekend, knowing that they must take full advantage of a depleted Toon side ravaged with around a dozen Coronavirus cases.
The last time these two clubs met was a fifth round FA Cup tie earlier this year, in which a youthful Baggies side lost 3-2 to a full strength Newcastle team. However, Albion did win their last Premier League encounter with the Magpies – a 1-0 win at St. James’ Park back in 2018, courtesy of a Matt Phillips goal.
West Brom’s players of the season so far, Sam Johnstone and Conor Gallagher, will need to be at their best again if Slaven’s side want to return to B71 with all three points. Johnstone has single-handedly kept Albion in games this season and has now overtaken Newcastle shot-stopper Karl Darlow with the most saves in the Premier League, 45.
Ivanovic, Bartley and even Ajayi have looked shaky in the centre of defence and despite the presence of all three of them in recent games, West Brom have conceded 23 goals, more than any other side this season.
Going forward hasn’t been any better, Gallagher with two in his last two games joins Robinson as Albion’s top scorer. The emphasis has to be put on getting service to summer signing Karlan Grant, who has only netted once in seven games this campaign.
It feels like anything but a win this weekend would be hard to take, but what Albion fans really want to see is a good performance from a team that believes they can stay up.
Team News and Predicted XI
It’s likely that Bilic will stick to a five at the back formation against Newcastle, who themselves have played with a back five formation four of the last five games. They lined up in a 4-4-2 in their most recent match, a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace.
Selection wise, it would make sense for natural left back Kieran Gibbs to come in for Matt Phillips, a player we’ve not seen since his red card at Goodison Park earlier this season.
Robinson is also a player who has impressed in short spells and could be chosen ahead of Diangana, who looks like he’s lost all of last season’s confidence.
Replacing Pereira, who will be sidelined for three games following his red card, is Albion’s biggest problem. The team looked bereft of ideas without him on Saturday. Krovinovic came on and offered very little offensively.
Perhaps it’s a chance for the likes of Austin, Grosicki and Robson-Kanu to prove they can still contribute to Albion’s season.
Albion’s Predicted XI: (5-2-3)
Newcastle are keeping their cards close to their chest with regards to how they will line up. Their training ground reopened on Tuesday, allowing players to train together for the first time in nearly two weeks. Danger man Callum Wilson was among those, he has seven goals already this season. Albion have eight.
With so many of Newcastle’s players sidelined through illness or fatigue this weekend, it is impossible to predict the lineup Steve Bruce will be going with. It is likely to be a motley crew of players bundled together just so that the Magpies can field a full eleven, whilst their bench will probably be lined with youngsters from the under-23s.
Fans have no doubt that Bilic is the right man for the job; 85% of almost 1,000 fans voted ‘Bilic In’ in a recent poll on @wbareport’s Twitter page.
However, a repeat of last Saturday would surely put his position under more pressure from the board, who unfortunately are the ones that make the final decision.