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West Brom v Cardiff - Match preview

The Championship schedule is always relentless. But, as Steve Bruce has said already, this season it is bordering on insanity.

Steve Bruce (Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images).
Steve Bruce (Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images).

Tonight’s game at The Hawthorns will be Albion’s fifth in 18 days and by the time the end of August comes around they will have played nine times in just 31 days.

The tightly-packed schedule is down to this year’s winter World Cup in Qatar and clubs are already feeling the pinch with injuries beginning to rack up.

Bruce’s Baggies are yet to really feel that issue – although the injury to Daryl Dike has presented them with an early hammer blow.

But the schedule, which Bruce has described as ridiculous, is going to make it tough to name unchanged teams – and it might already force him to make changes for tonight’s match-up with the Bluebirds.

And the tightly packed fixture list is going to lead to a reduced quality of games according to the Albion boss.

“I don’t think I’ve ever known a schedule quite as ridiculous. Because we won in the cup, we play a game every 2.7 days apparently,” explained Bruce.

“In 25 days, we have eight games coming up which is just ridiculous. The ratio of injuries picked up in games is there to see, but – touch wood – we are going along okay at the moment.

“We have got to start looking after players’ welfare a bit. I do think the agenda borders on ridiculous and I know we have a World Cup, there is another debate, why we are having World Cup in Qatar in the middle of our winter is beyond me but there you go.

“It is the case now where you are asking people to play Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday.

“It brings down the quality of the games. The boys can play every day, but it is the intensity you need to make it a spectacle. When it was two fresh teams, us and Watford, it was a great game to watch – another week later you’ve played two more games but that is the way it is.

“On Sunday we have had three of them near 12km, you ask them to do that and 1,000m of that is high intensity.

“That is the demands we put on them and they go again, and if they can’t you need to put people in who can, and there will be a bit of rotation going on.

“You wouldn’t think doing that at the start the season would you.”

Aside from Dike and Ken Zohore, who are facing time on the sidelines, Bruce confirmed his side came through their defeat at Blackburn without any major injury concerns – but that could soon change with the huge demand being placed on players this season.

And the Baggies boss believes that despite this year’s schedule being more unique because of the World Cup – the amount of games clubs are playing needs to be looked at. He added: “This is the first time we’ve had a big break in winter but they are cramming everything in at the start.

“Player welfare is a serious concern, you have six times more chance of getting injured playing three in a week instead of two. People will say they get well paid, course they are, but we have to look after them physically and there’s nothing worse than trying to play tired.

“We’ve been clamouring for a winter break for years – but we aren’t getting a break and it is an ongoing problem for our country that’s for sure.

“We have to start grasping it and learn from it, that we arguably play too much.”

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