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West Brom v Millwall preview: Long-awaited Hawthorns return looks make or break

Albion’s return to action against Millwall tomorrow could make or break their season.

Daryl Dike netting in a recent win at The Hawthorns (Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images).
Daryl Dike netting in a recent win at The Hawthorns (Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images).

Seventeen days away is a long old time and The Hawthorns faithful are reunited with Carlos Corberan and his squad as one of the Baggies’ chief play-off rivals come to town.

It is not over-the-top to suggest the outcome of this contest is likely to have a decisive bearing on the Championship campaign.

Corberan’s men are outsiders in this narrow shot at a play-off place. Five points is the gap to bridge – there is no better time or place to start eating into that deficit than at home tomorrow.

Five points sounds like a reasonable amount of ground to make up, but success against the Lions changes the picture and narrative, Albion would cut the gap to just two points and hold a game in hand.

That fixture may be a difficult trip to Sheffield United later in April – when the picture could be very different – but it will still present the Baggies an opportunity.

Successfully reduce the gap to just two points tomorrow in front of a booming Hawthorns with belief flooding though the fans, and Albion can consider themselves right back in the race.

There is an added emphasis on tomorrow purely because of the time away.

Albion’s squad should be refreshed and refocused. Daryl Dike, Dara O’Shea, Jayson Molumby, Semi Ajayi and Josh Griffiths of the senior squad were on international duty and returned to training yesterday, but otherwise the troops have enjoyed a welcome breather, with a focus on taking on information.

Supporters, too, will feel a sense of relief to be back. Albion’s extended break, due to that postponed Sheffield United clash, has dragged on and on for those itching for their football fix.

We have reached the business end and for Corberan’s side to begin their run-in with a telling victory over play-off rivals is so important for momentum, confidence and belief – not just in the dressing room, but in the stands. Three points will breed a ‘we can do it’ attitude. Anything else, especially a defeat, leaves the target all-but beyond the Baggies.

That rivals Sunderland and Norwich are still to visit the Black Country, and face the imperious record Corberan’s side have forged there, is also relevant.

The Canaries look like more likely contenders – currently two points better off than Albion while Sunderland trail by two points – but the Baggies’ final two home games could hardly look more significant.

But there are so many moving parts in this race where any clubs down to Sunderland and Preston, in 11th and 12th, might fancy a late sniff at the top six.

Before thinking about their final two home fixtures, and before even worrying about improving fortunes away from The Hawthorns, Albion face a big job tomorrow.

Gary Rowett’s visitors will look to play party-poopers and give their own top six aspirations a big boost. Soaking up pressure and hitting their hosts with a physical, direct approach could well suit the Lions.

Ultimately, Albion know only a win is enough.

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