West Brom v Blackburn: Baggies in need of some home comforts
Despite the encouraging start to life in the Championship, Slaven Bilic is still searching for his first win at The Hawthorns.
Two 1-1 draws in the league and a 2-1 defeat in the Carabao Cup has left an itch that needs to be scratched.
Overcome Tony Mowbray’s Blackburn side tomorrow and the Baggies will enter the international break unbeaten with 12 points from the first six games.
Two points per game is the traditional target for any team striving for the top two, and it would represent an undoubtedly strong start to the season.
There will be no need to panic if the wait for that home win continues, but that nagging feeling about Albion’s struggles in front of goal may grow.
The Baggies are a team eighth-tenths of the way there, and Bilic has quickly built a platform from a team of new faces.
The biggest compliment Semi Ajayi and Kyle Bartley can be paid is that Ahmed Hegazi’s absence has not yet been felt.
There are two strong contenders for the right-back spot in Darnell Furlong and Nathan Ferguson, while Romaine Sawyers and Jake Livermore seem in sync in the middle.
Kieran Gibbs is a doubt for this match with the groin niggle he picked up at Derby, but Conor Townsend will step in if he fails a late fitness test.
It is further forward is where the question marks remain.
Kenneth Zohore has converted two penalties in the last two games, but Bilic has admitted Charlie Austin is the ‘main striker’.
Austin needs minutes to get up to speed, he has done everything he can on the training pitch.
So having not played at all last weekend, is it time to give him another chance from the off?
Matheus Pereira is also closing in on his first start for the club after two telling impacts off the bench, but who makes way for the Brazilian on the wings is up for debate.
Having suffered from an illness in the week that caused him to miss the official team photo, Kyle Edwards is most likely to miss out.
Mowbray’s Blackburn took four points off the Baggies last season and Rovers arrive in form with seven points out of their last nine.
Three clean sheets in a row in the league suggests tomorrow’s visitors will be just as difficult to break down as Reading and Millwall were.
Mowbray may not be known around these parts for his defensive organisation, but he’s an experienced manager who knows where the opposition’s weaknesses lie. He will have noticed Albion’s struggles at home against a resolute rearguard action.
However, the Baggies have had a whole week to prepare for this game, unlike Blackburn, who played on Tuesday night.
Following a sluggish start against Derby last weekend, Bilic will want his side flying out of the blocks to take advantage.
This is an opportunity for this team to make a statement to their home fans, and send them into a two-week hiatus happy.
A first home win of the season, and a convincing one at that, and the Baggies really will be up and running.
Subs: Bond, O’Shea, Furlong, Brunt, Diangana, Edwards, Zohore.
Blackburn: (4-2-3-1): Walton, Bennett, Lenihan, Williams, Cunningham, Travis, Johnson, Gallagher, Dack, Downing, Graham.
The opposition: Tony Mowbray returns to The Hawthorns
Former fan favourite Tony Mowbray returns to his old stomping ground tomorrow hoping to extend Albion’s winless start at The Hawthorns.
Mowbray’s Blackburn side sit 13th in the embryonic Championship table, two points below Albion.
Blackburn had a tough start, losing 2-1 at home to promoted side Charlton Athletic, followed by a 2-0 loss to Fulham at Craven Cottage.
But they have since gained momentum, picking up 1-0 wins against Middlesbrough and Hull City, and a point against Cardiff.
Unlike Albion, Rovers were in action in midweek, when they bowed out of the Carabao Cup with a 2-1 loss to Premier League outfit Sheffield United.
Mowbray said: “We didn’t get what we deserved. We’re happy with the performance and Sam (Gallagher) scoring, but ultimately we’re out of the cup. There were positive signs, though, and we can see if we can take that into Saturday.”
Mowbray’s frustration grew as the game went on, and he was shown a red card during the closing stages of the game following an altercation with a ball boy.
He’s still awaiting an FA decision, but just like Slaven Bilic, who was sent off against Derby, is unlikely to face a touchline ban.
Blackburn had a busy transfer window, signing veteran winger Stewart Downing and Southampton striker Sam Gallagher.
Mowbray also recruited former Albion loanee, Tosin Adarabioyo, from Manchester City on a season-long loan, but the defender has not featured since their loss to Fulham through injury.
April 7, 2012
The last time these two faced off in the top flight, the Baggies picked up their first win in five games thanks to a resounding 3-0 victory.
Ben Foster was on form and Chris Brunt grabbed an assist – everything you would expect from an Albion side during this era.
An own goal from Martin Olsson put the Baggies ahead in the seventh minute, while Marc-Antoine Fortuné made it 2-0 with a header.
Liam Ridgewell sealed the win, heading in Graham Dorrans’ free-kick with five minutes left. Anthony Modeste was then shown red, rounding off a forgettable afternoon for Rovers.
Bradley Dack vs Jake Livermore
Having been linked with a move to The Hawthorns recently, Bradley Dack is a name Albion fans will know well.
He impressed against the Baggies last season, scoring in the 2-1 victory for Rovers at Elland Road, though may struggle against in-form Jake Livermore.
Albion’s midfielder looks a different player this season, and has rewarded Slaven Bilic’s decision to make him on-field captain by offering assured performances in the middle of the park.
Keeping Dack quiet for large spells could prove pivotal to Albion’s hopes tomorrow.