West Brom v Bristol City - Match preview

They may be third in the table and right in the thick of the automatic promotion race but Albion – and Valerien Ismael – need a performance against Bristol City.

Valerien Ismael Head Coach / Manager of West Bromwich Albion is interviewed after the match. (AMA)
Valerien Ismael Head Coach / Manager of West Bromwich Albion is interviewed after the match. (AMA)

The Baggies welcome Nigel Pearson’s side to The Hawthorns tomorrow having been beaten at Swansea on Wednesday night.

That result was their second loss in three games with Ismael’s men also falling to defeat at Stoke prior to the international break.

But while both those losses came on the road, the truth is recent performances at home haven’t been great either. Against QPR, Albion were rescued by two late goals from Karlan Grant – the first of which came thanks to an error from goalkeeper Seny Dieng.

And against Blues at The Hawthorns last time out, it was once again Grant who bailed out his side. On that occasion, the forward netted the winner with a stunning strike from the edge of the box.

That moment was the only genuine moment of quality in what was otherwise a drab West Midlands derby. And Ismael knows he needs his team to show more creativity and spark as they prepare to take on Bristol City.

To do that, the boss needs to find a way of getting more out of his forward players – all of whom are underperforming.

Grant has without doubt been the pick of the bunch having netted what is an outstanding return of five goals in as many games.

But in terms of Albion’s build-up play he has contributed very little.

And the same has to be said of Callum Robinson, Matt Phillips and Jordan Hugill – who have all struggled in recent weeks.

It had been hoped having scored five goals in two appearances for the Republic of Ireland, Robinson would return from international duty ready to carry on that goalscoring form.

But he has looked lost in the last two outings and was subbed at half-time against Blues and before the hour mark at Swansea. Phillips, for all his endeavour, is also creating very little, while Hugill simply hasn’t got going since arriving on loan from Norwich.

You get the feeling Albion are crying out for a powerful and physical centre forward. Orlando City’s Daryl Dike – who Ismael had at Barnsley last season – would be perfect and is understood to be a long-term transfer target.

But at the minute, Isamel must work with what he has got.

That creative spark tomorrow could return with the introduction of Grady Diangana who is believed to be fit again following a hamstring problem. And Ismael could be tempted to bring him back and play him on the right with Grant undroppable on the left because of his goals.

The boss may also be tempted to try Phillips through the middle. That was something he experimented with throughout pre-season – with Phillips looking comfortable in the role.

And with Robinson having struggled there, a change may freshen things up and give Bristol City something different to think about.

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