West Brom v Hull City: Inside track on The Tigers
West Brom are taking on Hull City this weekend, looking to carry on from their brilliant win over Sheffield Wednesday in midweek.
With that in mind, we spoke with Hull City blogger Rick Skelton, and Hull Live reporter Jonty Coleman, to get a proper take on the Tigers.
See what he had to say here...
How has the restart treated Hull City, they look one of the prime contenders for relegation right now, judging by the table?
RS: We've improved steadily after an awful start against Charlton.
The first half against Birmingham was a vast improvement, even if we did find a way to throw it away, and then we scraped the win against Middlesborough which will be a blessed relief having not won since January 1.
JC: Four points three games is a step in the right direction.
The Thursday night win over Middlesbrough was ugly, but important and needed.
The relegation picture changes on a daily basis at the moment and whilst no one is certainty yet to stay up or go down, City are very much in the thick of it.
Obviously, the sales of Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicki haven't helped, but what's been the key cause of the Tigers' struggles this season?
RS: The sales were key because Bowen and Grosicki made our system work. It's the only way Grant McCann will play and the threat those two players brought was what pinned other teams back. We're nowhere near the same team without them.
Pre-lockdown, we also had a ton of injuries including three quarters of the first choice back four for the last couple of games which just made things impossible.
Obviously the mood of the supporters was low after Bowen went on deadline day, then each poor result just dragged things down.
JC: It’s been a very Jekyll and Hyde season.
On New Year’s Day, City were eighth and a point off the play-offs, before Thursday’s win over Boro, they were a point off safety.
There was a dip in form before the sales of Bowen and Grosicki, that combination plus horrible injury luck only added to a free fall for Grant McCann’s side.
Eric Lichaj’s and Jackson Irvine’s recent exits also haven’t helped, but right now, their squad is fuller than ever, which is needed going into the last six games.
Has lockdown worked in Hull's benefit in any way, potentially giving the chance for players to get fit or for the side to refresh their mindset heading into the run-in?
RS: It probably has.
That was hard to tell with the abysmal performance at home to Charlton but given how bad things were and how many injuries we had, including several who weren't going to play again all season, it has given us at least a fighting chance.
It's really disappointing that Lichaj and Irvine have left because experienced pros are something we lack as a squad but that's nothing compared to pre-lockdown.
JC: Very much so. Tom Eaves, James Scott and Herbie Kane was just some of the players who have recovered from long term injuries.
They feared their seasons would be over, but they are now key players for the run-in.
What sort of football can we expect from Hull this weekend?
RS: Pretty dire, if we're honest.
McCann wants us to play a high-energy, high pressing game but it's just not there.
We've been pretty attritional in the last few games, relying on putting the ball into some space and seeing if Wilks can do anything with his pace.
JC: Away from home, expect them to try and remain organised but try and pass it about where possible to create something.
The intent is always there, even if the execution has been mixed in 2020.
We’ve seen a direct approach recently when they’ve needed too, and with strikers such as Josh Magennis and Tom Eaves available time them, it’s an option they can turn too if needed.
Are there any injury issues at the KCOM right now, what's the predicted XI for this weekend?
RS: Kane and Elder were injured in the Middlesborough game but otherwise it's not too bad.
Elder is our only recognised left-back though. I'd imagine we'll be unchanged for the most part with Long in goal, Burke and De Wijs at centre back, Pennington right back, Batty and Da Silva Lopes in midfield and Scott, Magennis and Wilks up top.
Hopefully Toral will replace Kane if he is out because he's our best playmaker. Da Silva Lopes will probably cover left back if Elder doesn't recover.
JC: Herbie Kane limped off in midweek with a hamstring injury and whilst they have hoped it it’s nothing serious, it may be too tight to bring him back. Concussion protocols forced Callum Elder off too.
He showed he wasn’t happy to have to go off and due to this protocols, he may be forced to miss out, leaving City short at left-back.
George Long; Matthew Pennington, Reece Burke, Jordy de Wijs, Sean McLoughlin; Leonardo Da Silva Lopes, Dan Batty, George Honeyman; Mallik Wilks, Josh Magennis, James Scott
Who are the players you fear in Albion's ranks?
RS: Pereira was sensational when we played Albion at home. He's the best player in the division.
Obviously Jake Livermore will come back to haunt us again, as much as we love him.
Charlie Austin is one that got away when he failed a medical here after we were promoted to the Premier League so he'll probably score against us again!
Who are the players Albion may need to worry about in this encounter?
JC: Leonardo Da Silva Lopes is proving to be a shrewd signing in midfield, full of energy, pace and is versatile, playing as a make shift left-back against Boro.
Newly-appointed captain Jordy de Wijs is having a great season at the back, whilst Mallik Wilks has been among the goals a lot recently.
What's your take on Albion from afar? Do you think they'll have enough to earn promotion and survive in the top flight if so?
RS: I thought they'd run away with it, especially adding Grosicki to an already superb squad.
Along with Leeds, they've done their best to blow it but the gap should be too big at this stage, despite Brentford's excellent form. I'd love us to blow it wide open at the weekend but I don't see it.
JC: I think they’re a very street wise team, a great blend of youth and experience, as well as discipline and expression.
Matheus Pereira is an absolute joy to watch, he will be a nightmare to deal with I’m sure.
I think they perhaps some fresher, experienced names in the squad when they clinch promotion, just to be certain, but they’re not a side that I would be immediately concerned about yo-yoing back into the Championship.
Your match prediction?
RS: Sadly, Albion 3-1.
JC: A 2-1 win for West Brom, but one where City have given a good account of themselves.