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Preview: A depressing West Brom season ends with last chance to impress

It’s the final match of what has been a hugely disappointing season.

Kyle Bartley of West Bromwich Albion applauds the West Bromwich Albion Fans after the Sky Bet Championship match between West Bromwich Albion and AFC Bournemouth at The Hawthorns on April 6, 2022 in West Bromwich, England. (Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images).
Kyle Bartley of West Bromwich Albion applauds the West Bromwich Albion Fans after the Sky Bet Championship match between West Bromwich Albion and AFC Bournemouth at The Hawthorns on April 6, 2022 in West Bromwich, England. (Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images).

Albion are expected to have a new-look side when the 2022/23 campaign gets under way.

But for now, this game against Barnsley gives manager Steve Bruce one more chance to assess things ahead of next season.

The 61-year-old has made it clear he wants to play with a flat back four moving forward.

That will be Plan A for the Baggies, who have been a three-at-the-back side this term.

And Bruce’s selection tomorrow will perhaps give us some answers as to who is in his plans going forward and who isn’t.

In preparation for next season, the former Newcastle chief played a 4-4-2 formation at Reading last weekend.

He has previously said he is open to playing 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 systems moving forward.

Bruce, though, has also said he wants to massively overhaul his squad this summer.

And the return of the suspended Darnell Furlong makes his team selection tomorrow very interesting.

Bruce, somewhat surprisingly, restored Kyle Bartley to his starting XI at the Madjeski Stadium.

With the 30-year-old having been left on the bench for the recent games against Blackpool and Coventry, he had been one player tipped to leave the club this summer.

Bartley’s return to the side in Berkshire, though, gave the impression he could be staying – especially as fellow centre-back Matt Clarke was left on the bench.

Bruce is a big fan of Clarke and has described him as Albion’s most consistent player since he arrived at the club.

But while the Baggies would like to keep him following his loan from Brighton, the truth is they are strong at centre-back.

There are other areas of the squad that need strengthening as a priority.

And that means any future deal for Clarke will only happen if they can move some other centre-backs on.

With Furlong returning, though, it will be interesting to see what Bruce does in defence.

Dara O’Shea played a right-back at Reading – with the boss believing his is comfortable in that role.

But if there is a chance Bartley could leave, O’Shea could join Semi Ajayi at the heart of the defence tomorrow – with Furlong taking his place on the right.

Fans will also hope to see more of youngster Zac Ashworth on the left, with the teenager impressing from the bench in Berkshire following an injury to Conor Townsend.

Elsewhere, Albion’s team is likely to be very similar to the one at Reading.

Matt Phillips in likely to continue on the right of midfield with Adam Reach on the left and Jake Livermore and Jayson Molumby central.

Bruce will also probably want to have another look at Grady Diangana as a central striker.

And he will be joined by Karlan Grant, who will be hoping to add to the 16 goals he has already scored this season.

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