Preview: West Brom v Blues

The pressure is on West Brom because there is a lot of difference between their situation and our situation.

pep Clotet.

Our full match preview ahead of Saturday's Sky Bet Championship fixture between West Bromwich Albion and Blues at The Hawthorns (3pm kick-off).

Pep Clotet on what he expects from West Brom on Saturday...
"I expect a very tough game. West Brom are a fantastic club with a really strong squad and a fantastic manager as well. I like how the team plays because they try to do everything right when they have the ball and when they don’t, and whether they're winning or losing. We had a fantastic game against them at St. Andrew's (earlier in the season) when we saw the quality of their bench. In my opinion they are one of the best teams in the Championship in years and I see them as clear candidates for the title."

Pep Clotet on how he trusts his players to provide West Brom with a stern test...
"They're playing for a lot of things, but I trust that my own team and players know what they’re doing. I know we will try and exploit their weaknesses as we do in every game and we are going to compete. But the pressure is on West Brom because there is a lot of difference between their situation and our situation."

Pep Clotet on how satisfied he is with the general fitness levels of his players following their extended break...
"Physically the players look very good. They worked hard on their food and nutrition and they had time as well to work on muscles to try to avoid injuries so I'm very satisfied with the physical state. But at the same time I'd like people to remember it's the first game after a very long break. This will be like a second pre-season game after the one we played on Saturday (against Wolves). We have nine games to go and we have a club that is in a very healthy position and we want to finish the season strongly."

West Brom manager Slaven Bilic's comments ahead of the game...
“They (Blues) were in good form before the break. But that doesn’t count now. Like our form doesn’t count now. What I expect is an extremely front footed team that is very brave. A team that up front can become dangerous in absolutely no time with Lukas Jutkiewicz and Scott Hogan. They have good wingers. They are hard to beat. They are good at set-plays, second-balls. Direct football. But we have to take responsibility and show our quality. We have the patterns, we have the atmosphere, we have the gap we have the motivation. Of course, it is going to be difficult. Respect goes to everyone. I like Birmingham. But I like my team more.”

West Brom team news...
Ahmed Hegazy and Grady Diangana have recovered from their respective hamstring injuries and could return. Long-term injury absentees Jonathan Leko and Nathan Ferguson remain sidelined.

Blues team news...
Josh McEachran is still recovering from his knee injury and will be missing. Pep Clotet has confirmed that two other players have slight injuries and will have late fitness tests although for tactical reasons he wouldn't confirm their names.

Last five meetings between WBA and Blues...
Premier League 05 Mar 2011 Blues 1 West Brom 3
FA Cup 24 Jan 2015 Blues 1 West Brom 2
Championship 14 Sep 2018 Blues 1 West Brom 1
Championship 29 Mar 2019 West Brom 3 Blues 2
Championship 14 Dec 2019 Blues 2 West Brom 3

Total meetings between WBA and Blues...
WBA wins: 59
Draws: 36
Blues wins: 35

Form guide last five Championship games...
Blues: DDDDL

Line-ups last game...
Swansea City v WBA: Johnstone; O’Shea, Ajayi, Bartley (Furlong 58), Townsend; Livermore, Sawyers; Pereira (Edwards 78), Krovinovic, Robinson (Grosicki 58); Robson-Kanu.
Subs (not used): Bond; Gibbs, Austin, Harper.

Blues v Reading: Camp, Pedersen, Roberts, Colin, Crowley, Jutkiewicz, Dean, G Gardner, Bellingham (Mrabti, 72), Sunjic (Kieftenbeld, 84), Hogan.
Subs (not used): Trueman, Harding, Clarke-Salter, Montero, Boyd-Munce.

Subscribers to BluesTV will be able to watch this game live. Click here for further information.

Match officials...
Referee Darren Bond will take charge of Saturday's game. So far this season the Lancashire-based official has refereed 26 games, where he has produced a total of 92 yellow cards, one red and awarded six penalties. The last Blues game he refereed was our FA Cup home fourth round replay against Coventry City in February. Blues won that match on penalties after the game had finished 2-2. There were four players booked; including Wes Harding and Jack Concannon for the hosts. Mr Bond has refereed 17 Blues games in total, with Blues winning 10 of them, drawing four and losing just three. The last West Brom game he took charge of was their Championship home fixture against Brentford in December 2019. The match finished in a 1-1 draw, with three players cautioned; including Nathan Ferguson and Jake Livermore for the Baggies. He has refereed four West Brom games during his career, with the Baggies drawing three of them and losing one. Mr Bond will be assisted on Saturday by Philip Dermott and Mark Russell, with Matthew Donohue acting as the fourth official.