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Ill discipline forces Valerian Ismael to shuffle West Brom pack at QPR

Ill-discipline has ensured Valerien Ismael has some big decisions to make for what is a massive game at QPR.

 Daryl Dike (Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images).
Daryl Dike (Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images).

The Baggies travel to Loftus Road tomorrow having picked up six red cards in their last 12 games.

That lack of control means they will be without suspended trio Sam Johnstone, Alex Mowatt and Cedric Kipre in the captial, while Semi Ajayi is away with Nigeria at the African Cup of Nations.

And that lack of numbers is not what Ismael needs ahead of what really is a huge game.

Albion currently sit fourth in the Championship, one point and one place above Mark Warburton’s side.

But a defeat – and a win for Huddersfield at Swansea – would see them drop to sixth. They could even fall out the play-off zone entirely if Middlesbrough secure an emphatic win over Reading.

That simply isn’t good enough. Albion should be competing with Fulham and Bournemouth for a place in the top two.

But the hope is this will the first game of what is effectively a new era under Ismael – the Daryl Dike era.

While Albion’s points total is the only statistic that really matters, all the other numbers suggest the Baggies have been hugely unfortunate this season.

Expected goals data is something that tends to divide supporters.

But normally the teams that create the most chances – and concede the fewest – win more games than they lose.

The website Experimental 3-6-1 produces a league table every week based on the points teams would have accumulated had the game been decided by xG.

And it currently has Albion sitting top of the Championship, two points ahead of Fulham.

It’s important to note the Cottagers do have two games in hand.

Nevertheless, it is Albion who are top – a whopping 15 points clear of third-placed Middlesbrough.

The data suggests Albion’s form is about to improve quite drastically. And the addition of Dike should make a huge difference – with the American appearing to be the clinical striker they have been missing.

Unfortunately, it seems unlikely the 21-year-old will start tomorrow.

Ismael has said that it will take the forward another two weeks for him to be fully fit.

And that means we’ll likely see him from the bench – as the last thing Albion want is to risk him breaking down with an injury.

That means Matt Phillips will probably be Albion’s central striker after the 30-year-old impressed in the role against Brighton last week.

It’s at centre-back, though, where Ismael has a real headache.

With no Kipre, Ajayi, or Dara O’Shea, the boss is going to have to move someone out of position to partner Kyle Bartley and Matt Clarke.

Conor Townsend and Adam Reach are both options.

But Ismael tends to like a right-footed player on the right – so that could see skipper Jake Livermore move into the back three.

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