Albion host Newcastle at the weekend in what is setting up to be an exciting clash as Albion try and catch up with their relegation rivals.
Albion’s three game unbeaten run came to a halt on Thursday night as Everton narrowly edged Allardyce’s men. Whilst the loss was not ideal in terms of breaking some momentum, and not allowing for a full week of rest, the performance maintained the consistent levels of previous weeks, and the squad managed to get through without picking up any injuries or suspensions.
Newcastle, on the other hand, seem to be facing a nervous final few months of the season. Their form of late has been poor. They have struggled without Wilson, and now face more issues in attack as both Allan Saint-Maximin and Almiron picked up injuries in their last outing. There also appears to be trouble behind the scenes regarding the relationship between Bruce and the players. It certainly looks like a good time to be facing them.
It will be interesting to see how Allardyce approaches the game on Sunday having had the Everton game moved forward. That being said, he has been extremely consistent in his lineups and seems to have found a squad that has clicked in recent weeks.
Ajayi, who returned to the bench on Thursday, might get a recall in place of O’Shea. Although this would be harsh on O’Shea, who has filled in well. But with the potential pace of Gayle, or the height of Carroll, it might be Ajayi that Allardyce turns to.
The midfield will remain much the same with Yokuslu putting in another top quality performance and Gallagher and Maitland-Niles holding firm once again. The availability of Snodgrass throws up another question for Allardyce to address, whilst the quality of Pereira is undoubted, in recent weeks he has been short of the mark. It would not be a surprise to see him come into the starting eleven for Pereira or Phillips.
Leading the line will be Diagne who was ruled out by millimetres on Thursday, but will be hopeful he will get more chances to make a nuisance of himself against what will be another reshuffled Newcastle eleven.
Arguably the hardest hit side at the moment in terms of injuries, the Magpies go into the game without any of their preferred front three in Wilson, Almiron and Saint-Maximin.
In his press conference Bruce also revealed that Krafth and Hayden were also not fully fit and they were awaiting to see whether they would be in the mix. Although he did elude to the potential return of Federico Fernandez which would bolster defensive options.
In attack, Albion will be hopeful that Gayle does not haunt them for the second time this season as he will surely be in with a chance of leading the line alongside Joelinton. Another ex Albion loanee, Jacob Murphy, also has a strong chance of starting. This comes as Matt Ritchie, despite a rumoured bust-up with Bruce, might be asked to fill in at RB.
With such issues regarding team selection there is really no telling what Bruce might opt for, there is even the possibility that Andy Carroll might play a part at some point during the match.
If ever there was a game which was there for the taking it would be this one. The ‘must win’ cliche has been used every week for a while now, but it is no more apt than for this weekend. Albion must take this game by the scruff of the neck and make it a very difficult match for the visitors, who seem to be in a state of disarray.
Expect Bartley and whoever partners him to have a busy game up against the likes of Gayle and Joelinton, but if they can keep things tight I am confident that Newcastle will soon run out of creativity.
The influence of Yokuslu, alongside the legs of Gallagher and Maitland-Niles will hopefully be too much for Shelvey to keep up with. If Albion can also maintain the impetus in attack then hopefully Willock will be called into defensive duties more than he would like. Similarly, targeting whoever is at RB for Newcastle might be the key to unlocking their defensive frailties.
Despite the result on Thursday, Albion played well and probably deserved a share of the spoils. The players will be aware that their performance was deserving of more and there should be no reason why they should not be optimistic going into the weekend.
Score Prediction: West Brom 2-0 Newcastle