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West Brom: Valerien Ismael must unleash Matt Clarke vs Birmingham

With Valerien Ismael’s West Bromwich Albion side heading into Friday night’s Championship fixture off the back of their first league defeat of the season, the Frenchman will undoubtedly be hoping for a much better result at The Hawthorns in order to get the Baggies’ automatic promotion push back on track.

On paper, Albion appear to have a good chance of doing so, as tonight’s visitors Birmingham City have been out of sorts in recent weeks, with Lee Bowyer’s side picking up just one point from their last five Championship fixtures.

Furthermore, Ismael could also be set to welcome back Matt Clarke to his matchday squad on Friday, with the Brighton loanee having not featured in any of West Brom’s last seven league games due to a hamstring injury.

Have West Brom missed Clarke?

Yes

Yes

No

No

What West Brom have been missing

While West Brom have not exactly been haemorrhaging goals in the absence of the centre-back, conceding just four times in the seven fixtures in which Clarke has not featured, the Baggies only managed to pick up three wins in this period – the same number they managed in the three games in which the 25-year-old has featured this season.

Indeed, the £2.7m-rated man has turned in consistently solid displays in a West Brom shirt, averaging 2.3 interceptions, one tackle, 2.7 clearances and 0.7 key passes and winning a whopping 7.3 duels per game.

These returns have seen the defender who Graham Potter dubbed a “quality” player average a SofaScore match rating of 7.03, ranking him as Ismael’s joint eighth-best performer in the second tier.

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Furthermore, Clarke’s return to the starting XI would also facilitate Conor Towsend’s move to his more natural position at left wing-back, with the 28-year-old having filled in as part of Albion’s back three in the absence of the Brighton man.

As such, so long as the £21k-per-week centre-back is indeed fit enough for the game against Birmingham, it would seem advisable for Ismael to reinstall Clarke to his starting XI tonight, as the defender very much looks to be exactly what Albion have been missing in recent weeks.

In other news: Ismael masterclass: West Brom struck dream deal over “massive” £6.3m-rated gem

Article title: West Brom: Valerien Ismael must unleash Matt Clarke vs Birmingham

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