West Brom should have defensive trio back for the Black Country derby

Albion should have Kieran Gibbs, Kyle Bartley and Branislav Ivanovic available for the derby against Wolves, head coach Sam Allardyce has confirmed.

Kieran Gibbs of West Bromwich Albion during the pre-match warm up.
Kieran Gibbs of West Bromwich Albion during the pre-match warm up.

But the boss has reiterated the Baggies need to sign to defenders this month to help lighten the workload on those at the back.

Gibbs, Bartley and Ivanovic were all substituted during the Baggies’ FA Cup defeat at Blackpool on Saturday.

Gibbs has been struggling with a tight quad muscle over the past few weeks – with the left-back pulling out of the Leeds game during the warm-up because of the issue.

Bartley picked up a calf problem during the defeat to Crystal Palace back in December – with that knock keeping him sidelined for five matches.

Ivanovic, meanwhile, is lacking match sharpness, having been in and out of the Albion team ever since arriving on a free transfer from Zenit Saint Petersburg in the summer.

Football’s frantic schedule means after the Wolves game on Satuday, Albion travel to take on West Ham on Tuesday.

And Allardyce believes – with one of the smallest squads in the division – the Baggies have to be extra careful when guiding players back to full fitness.

“Kieran (Gibbs) is suffering from quad tightness but he is fine,” the boss said.

“We’re just getting him over that.

“It’s the same with Kyle, we want to save him – that’s why we took them off against Blackpool.

“Kyle had to come off after 60 minutes according to our sports science and medical staff. We didn’t want to fatigue him and get another injury.

“It was about getting him in and trying to win that game and saving him for the game next week against Wolves.

“Then we have a midweek game against West Ham.

“Ivanovic is also lacking match sharpness, he hasn’t played too much.

“We have to move the players around as best we can, and we have to look at the loads.

“Everybody has to do it, but unfortunately we seem to have a smaller squad than anybody else.

“We can’t make too many rotations so it’s going to be a big ask for some of the players – they’re going to have to keep going until hopefully we can relieve that situation by getting in three, maybe four players.”

Against Blackpool, Allardyce experimented by shifting Semi-Ajayi from centre-back into a holding midfield role.

It’s a position the Nigerian international played in often at former club Rotherham. And Allardyce felt the Blackpool match was an ideal opportunity to look at him in the role. It was about the players we had available, and what we could do with our attacking players,” Allardyce said on why he moved Ajayi into midfield.

“Could we keep a solid base? Neil Warnock told me that when he was at Rotherham he played holding midfield on a regular basis for him.

“I thought that having a look at him in that role, in this game, would be very good for us.”

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