Blackburn v West Brom: Slaven Bilic fires Albion up for ‘World Cup final’
The message from Slaven Bilic to his players could not be any clearer.
“We have done a lot, but we haven’t achieved anything yet. Zero, zero, nothing.
“Blackburn is our World Cup final.”
Those were the words uttered by the boss during his pre-match press conference ahead of the trip to Ewood Park tomorrow.
And it’s fair to say the Croatian is determined his players don’t rest on their laurels following their outstanding display in the win over Derby.
It’s difficult not to get carried away when talking about the Baggies’ performance against the Rams.
Defensively they were outstanding – with their work-rate, organisation and discipline ensuring Phillip Cocu’s side didn’t register a single shot on target.
But they were just as impressive going forward.
With speedsters Grady Diangana and Kamil Grosicki on the wings – and Matheus Pereira back in the number 10 role – Derby simply couldn’t live with their pace and movement.
It was a statement win that ensured – with just four games left to go – Albion have a five-point cushion in the race for automatic promotion.
Bilic, though, knows just what a bonkers league the Championship can be.
And he has warned his players they must not let all their hard work go to waste.
“I liked the performance, I liked the result, I liked the whole package against Derby,” he said. “It is a great boost for us, but only if we take confidence from it.
“If we start thinking, even just a little bit, that’s it done – no, no, we’ve done nothing yet. We have to push now, we have to be more focused, more determined, more confident, more brave, more compact, more hungry to do the job.
“In the Championship every game is individual and every game brings traps.
“We have to be crazy hungry and crazy motivated.
“I was pleased with Derby, but we have to do it against Blackburn also.
“We can’t think now that we are good.
“We played well – but played is past tense, as they teach you in school.
“We have to do it against Blackburn.
“The message to the players is it’s the World Cup final on Saturday.”
While it would be understandable to assume Bilic will stick with the same team and system at Ewood Park, the boss does have decisions to make ahead of tomorrow’s game.
Matching Derby and returning to a 4-2-3-1 formation proved to be a stroke of genius against Cocu’s side.
But that win aside, Albion have looked better in a 4-3-3 system in recent weeks .
That is the formation Blackburn play. And with Diangana a doubt with a tight hamstring, Bilic may opt to restore Filip Krovinovic to his starting XI and bolster his midfielder numbers.
The boss also has a tough call to make at the back with Ahmed Hegazi available again following suspension.
Hegazi initially got the nod ahead of Kyle Bartley when football returned following the coronavirus outbreak.
The Egyptian was then partnered by Bartley, with Semi Ajayi forced to make do with a place on the bench for the wins over Sheffield Wednesday and Hull.
And Bilic says he his decision as to who plays centre-back tomorrow will be based on a ‘feeling’.
“We have Ahmed back, Ahmed has played well since he came back into the team,” he said.
“I’m going to make a decision, but this is a ‘sweet worry’, as we call them in Europe.
“It’ll be based on a feeling. It’s great to have three centre-backs that are in good form, like the whole back four.
“We’ve defended well since lockdown. It was good against Birmingham, the defensive phase was pretty good against Brentford – except for the goal they created nothing.
“Sheff Wed and Derby too. It was only Hull where we didn’t look good.
“We’ll see. I have three really good centre-backs and we’re going to pick two.”