West Brom will be looking to extend their lead at the top of the Championship this week as they are faced with a double-header starting with a trip to Reading this evening.
Some 20 points separate the two teams with the Royals lingering at the wrong end of the table, but that doesn’t mean they won’t pose a considerable threat come kickoff.
The Baggies can nullify this if manager Slaven Bilic is brave enough to make a bold call on team selection, something he is yet to have done this campaign.
Romaine Sawyers’ season has visited both ends of the spectrum after starting the season ever so well, his form has tailed off in recent weeks.
Despite being the league’s best passing midfielder, averaging a passing success rate of 90.3%, he has been trending downwards over their last three matches going from 91.2% against Cardiff City down to 86.1% in the Luton Town win and to just 79.5% on Sunday afternoon, per WhoScored.
In that same run of games, he has also racked up a total of seven fouls and six unsuccessful touches, so there’s certainly a claim that he’s looking a tad lacklustre – maybe even burnt out – over recent weeks.
Reading’s best player is central midfielder and likely opposite number, John Swift, who has racked up five goals, nine assists and an average rating of 7.41. That’s on top of 2.7 key passes, 1.8 dribbles and 4.9 long balls per game, also via WhoScored.
Sawyers may well struggle to deal with this kind of lynchpin given his recent displ, so it would be wise to opt for a box-to-box sort in the form of academy starlet Rekeem Harper as he could be the man to disrupt Swift’s dominating presence in the centre.
There is very little data to go off for the 19-year-old but his average of 1.2 dribbles and 0.9 shots per game from last season suggests he can be a threat further afield, thus forcing the Royals dangerman deeper and subsequently neutralising the threat.
Harper is also a player that has looked composed in the heart of the pitch in finding space as well as breaking up play, particularly against the press as per Total Football Analysis‘ scout report, which should stand him in good stead against this test over Sawyers.